Birds come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny hummingbird to the towering bald eagle. But not all birds are beautiful. There are some very ugly birds. Or maybe they’re so ugly that they’re cute? I’ll let you decide.
Some of the ugliest birds include the shoebill, Northern bald ibis, ocellated turkey, marabou stork, and naked neck chickens. Many of these ugly birds have visible growths, bald spots, oversized beaks, and huge eyes.
24 Ugly Birds
Here are some of the world’s ugliest birds. From the weird-looking cassowary to the prehistoric-looking shoebill, these birds add some spice to the animal kingdom.
The following birds have unique features that make them stand out. To some, they might be cute. And to others, they are not that nice to look at. To me, I love to see them all. My favorite? I think the shoebill is my favorite of these ugly birds.
Did I miss one? Or maybe you disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments!
Here’s more about each species.
1. Helmeted Hornbill
- Scientific names: Rhinoplax vigil
- Range: Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia
- Ugly features: Heavy bill and fused vertebrae
- Distinguishing habits: Their loyalty
The helmeted hornbill is one of the ugliest birds in the world. And because its massive beak growth is prized for carving, it is hunted and is now rare.
The male hornbill sports an impressive casque, or helmet, on its head. This bony growth helps attract mates and intimidate rivals.
2. Northern Bald Ibis
- Scientific names: Geronticus eremita
- Range: Northern Africa, The European Alps, and the Middle East
- Ugly features: A bald head and a red beak
- Distinguishing habits: Flying with its neck outstretched
The northern bald ibis is one of the ugliest birds. It has black feathers throughout its body, and its face features a bright red bag.
The bird’s long, scraggly neck does little to improve its appearance. The northern bald ibis looks so ungainly that it is surprising that it can fly at all.
- Scientific names: Balaeniceps rex
- Range: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Sudan.
- Ugly features: Its massive shoe-shaped beak
- Distinguishing habits: Standing very still with its bill pointing upwards
The shoebill is a large bird with a distinctive shoe-shaped bill. The shoebill is found in swampy areas of Africa and feeds on fish, amphibians, and reptiles.
It is a proficient hunter, using its long, hooked bill to spear prey.
The shoebill is one of the largest flying birds.
4. Muscovy Duck
- Scientific names: Cairina moschata
- Range: Australia, Europe, the Americas, and New Zealand
- Ugly features: Red, warty face
- Distinguishing habits: Roost in tree branches in small groups or pairs
With its worn feathers, bulbous red eyes, and long, hooked beak, the Muscovy duck is undoubtedly not a beauty.
Native to South America, the Muscovy duck is famous for its excellent swimming ability and tendency to mate for life.
Here are some more animals that mate for life.
5. King Vulture
- Scientific names: Sarcoramphus papa
- Range: Southern Mexico to Northern Argentina
- Ugly features: Bald neck and head with purple or red wrinkled skin on the head
- Distinguishing habits: The only vulture in the Americas that doesn’t scavenge for food
The King Vulture is a large bird common in tropical America. The bird’s head is bald and wrinkled, with a hooked beak suited for tearing flesh.
White feathers cover the entire body except for the wings and tail, which are black.
6. Marabou Stork
- Scientific names: Leptoptilos crumenifer
- Range: Sub-Saharan Africa
- Ugly features: Rotting-like head
- Distinguishing habits: It cleans its surrounding with its ingestion waste and carrion
The marabou stork is an ugly bird with a black body and white wings. Its appearance has earned it the nickname, the undertaker bird. And it is considered by some to be the unofficial bird of Uganda.
It stands 60 inches tall and has an 11-foot wingspan. The marabou stork has a bald head with a hooked beak, and its legs are long and scaly.
Here are our picks for ugly African animals.
7. Ocellated Turkey
- Scientific names: Meleagris ocellata
- Range: North America, Belize
- Ugly features: Ugly bright blue heads with nodules
- Distinguishing habits: The male’s crowns become enlarged, and it gets skin warts every first week of February during breeding
With its flashy plumage and bulbous head, the ocellated turkey is a unique-looking bird.
It resembles the North American wild turkey, but its orange and red nodules set it apart. The males have a blue, mostly bald head covered with these wart-like nodules.
- Scientific names: Nyctibius grandis
- Range: South and Central America
- Ugly features: Yellow, bulging eyes
- Distinguishing habits: Sit upright and crosswise when actively foraging
The potoo features a large head, larger eyes, a pointy beak, and scruffy plumage. The potoo is an expert at camouflage, using its drab plumage to blend in with tree bark and branches.
9. Featherless Chickens (Naked Neck)
- Scientific names: Gallus gallus domesticus
- Range: In hot areas
- Ugly features: Lack of plumage
- Distinguishing habits: Staying close to the ground
With their protruding eyes, bald heads, and skinny bodies, featherless chickens are certainly not a pretty sight. Featherless chickens are also known as Transylvanian Naked Neck and Turken.
They received the name turken, from the mistaken idea that they are a turkey-chicken hybrid.
10. Long-Wattled Umbrellabird
- Scientific names: Cephalopterus penduliger
- Range: Ecuador and Columbia
- Ugly features: Long, feathered wattle
- Distinguishing habits: Its throat can grow up to 35cm long
Long-wattled umbrellabird is a South American species with an umbrella-like crest of feathers on its head, which it uses to attract mates.
The wattle is a long, fleshy, black growth that is unmistakable, as you can see in the video.
11. Wood Stork
- Scientific names: Mycteria americana
- Range: South America, and parts of Central America and the Caribbean.
- Ugly features: Looks like it’s made of chopped wood
- Distinguishing habits: Waits in shallow waters till an innocent fish comes their way.
With its bald head and long, gangly legs, the wood stork more closely resembles a vulture than a traditional stork. And it is the only member of the Ciconiidae family (stork) to breed in North America.
Wood storks were known as the wood ibis, although it isn’t an ibis.
12. Helmeted Guineafowl
- Scientific names: Numida meleagris
- Range: Sub-Saharan Africa
- Ugly features: Featherless head, strange-looking face with a big hooked beak, and disheveled feathers
- Distinguishing habits: Their very first instinct when terrified is to run instead of flying
The Helmeted Guineafowl is easy to spot with its dark plumage and scaly, featherless head. The bird is certainly not aesthetically pleasing.
They are known as efficient tick eaters.
13. Wild Turkey
- Scientific names: Meleagris gallopavo
- Range: North America
- Ugly features: Snood, caruncles, red wattle
- Distinguishing habits: The male turkey’s head turns blue when excited and red when ready to fight
Turkeys are certainly not the prettiest birds around. Their drab plumage and bald heads resemble vultures more closely than anything else.
Many believe that turkeys are relatives of vultures, although this is technically not true. However, there is no denying that turkeys are pretty ugly animals. Even baby turkeys, or “poults,” are rather unattractive.
14. Roseate Spoonbill
- Scientific names: Platalea ajaja
- Range: Southern Florida, coastal Texas, and Central and South USA
- Ugly features: Hairless, green-and-yellow head, weird eyes
- Distinguishing habits: They swing their beaks from side to side as they walk
The Roseate Spoonbill has a long, curved bill that is pink in color and covered in white feathers. Its eyes are small and black, and its legs are thin and delicate.
The roseate spoonbill reminds me of an ugly flamingo.
15. White-Headed Vulture
- Scientific names: Trigonoceps occipitalis
- Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, south to South Africa.
- Ugly features: Pink, featherless patches on the head and neck
- Distinguishing habits: Often the first species to arrive at a fresh carcass.
The white-headed vulture is one of the world’s ugliest birds. With its ragged feathers, pink head, and bulbous eyes, it’s easy to see why some people find it off-putting.
- Scientific names: Perissocephalus tricolor
- Range: North eastern South America
- Ugly features: Vulture-like head and hunched back
- Distinguishing habits: Incredible vocalizations
The capuchinbird (or calfbird) is a relatively large, drab-colored bird with a large head and beak, and an ungainly appearance.
The capuchinbird has a bald head like a vulture, covered in blue skin. They are around 16 inches (40 cm) long and have a heavy bill.
17. Southern Cassowary
- Scientific names: Casuarius casuarius
- Range: Southern half of New Guinea, Australia’s and northern exotic rainforests
- Ugly features: Distressing eyes, horn-like casque
- Distinguishing habits: Forest foraging for fruit. Solitary bird, forming pairs only during mating season.
The Southern Cassowary is not a pretty bird. With its bright blue neck and red wattle, it looks like something that would be more at home in a Dr. Seuss book than the Australian rainforest.
They also have a dagger-like claw (4.7″ / 12 cm) on its inner toe.
18. California Condor
- Scientific names: Gymnogyps californianus
- Range: North America
- Ugly features: Lack of feathers on its head and neck
- Distinguishing habits: Their skin tends to flush during emotional states
The condor is far from beautiful with its bald head, scruffy feathers, and vulture-like appearance. But despite its less-than-stellar looks, the California condor is an integral part of the ecosystem.
19. Indian Grey Hornbill
- Scientific names: Ocyceros birostris
- Range: Southern India
- Ugly features: A large, curved black bill
- Distinguishing habits: Travel in pairs during the nesting season
The Indian Grey Hornbill is synonymous with its unappealing large, orange bill. Its drab plumage adds little to its attractiveness. However, the Indian Grey Hornbill is not without its charms.
20. Southern Screamer
- Scientific names: Chauna torquata
- Range: Across much of South America. You can find them in Bolivia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve Savannas and wetlands
- Ugly features: Eyes ringed by naked, red skin
- Distinguishing habits: Loud barking call
The Southern Screamer is an unassuming bird. It is small, brown, and not particularly remarkable in appearance.
The Southern Screamer’s odd proportions, bulbous bill, and wiry crest all contribute to its unappealing look.
- Scientific names: Ophisthocomus hoazin
- Range: The Orinoco Delta and the Amazon in South America
- Ugly features: Naked blue head, spikey feathers
- Distinguishing habits: Their incredible stench
With its scruffy plumage, ungainly build, and razor-sharp claws, it’s easy to see why this bird made this list. But looks can be deceiving, and beneath its unassuming exterior lies a fascinating creature.
The hoatzin is the only member of its family and features among the most ancient bird species.
22. Harpy Eagle
- Scientific names: Harpia harpyja
- Range: From Mexico to South Americca
- Ugly features: Scales covering their feathers
- Distinguishing habits: They make a slight noise when flying, so it is not easy to notice them even when they pass over prey
The Harpy Eagle has a big, bulbous head, beady eyes, and a hooked beak that looks like it could do severe damage.
Add in its ungainly wings and scruffy feathers, and you’ve got a bird that wouldn’t win any beauty contests. It is known as the most powerful eagle in the world.
Learn more about the biggest eagles in the world.
23. Tawny Frogmouth
- Scientific names: Podargidae
- Range: Australia and Tasmania
- Ugly features: Large, yellow eyes, hooked bill, short legs.
- Distinguishing habits: Exceptional camouflage
The frogmouth is an unassuming bird found in tropical areas of Asia and Australia. Because of its unique appearance, it is considered the most Instagrammable bird.
Some people believe that the frogmouth is one of the most ugly birds. Others love its adorable appearance.
24. Blue Footed Booby
- Scientific names: Sula nebouxii
- Range: Mexico and Ecuador
- Ugly features: A large, flat, hook-shaped beak
- Distinguishing habits: Aggressive diving during a feeding frenzy, unique walking
The blue-footed booby has bright blue feet and a bulbous body. It is a native of the Galapagos Islands and nests on rocky cliffs.
It feeds primarily on fish, which it catches by plunging into the water from great heights. It’s the last on our list of ugly birds, although some might find it cute.
Love ugly? Here are 12 ugly insects that you’ll probably want to avoid. Or what about these kinda ugly fish?
The ugly birds on this list are certainly not much to look at, but they do have a unique beauty. Every animal has its special look, just like all of us.
Remember that everyone has their own opinion on beauty.
Did I miss one? Which bird do you love the most? Let me know in the comments!
See our huge guide: 28 Ugliest Animals on Earth
- About the Author
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Hi, I’m Bryan Haines. And I’m a co-founder of Storyteller.Travel. I’m a traveler and photographer.
I also blog about photography on Storyteller Tech.