15 Rare Red Birds (Can You Spot Them?)

15 Rare Red Birds (Can You Spot Them?)

From the vibrancy of a backyard cardinal to the tropical allure of the scarlet ibis, the world of red birds is as diverse as it is captivating.

While red feathers are a common sight among many bird species, truly red birds are quite rare. Let’s take a look at 15 of the most elusive and intriguing red birds found all around the globe.

The Colorful World of Red Birds

The world of avian species is a kaleidoscope of colors, but there is something particularly captivating about red birds.

Their vibrant plumage is not only visually stunning but also serves significant biological functions.

From aiding in mate selection to providing camouflage, the coloration of a bird’s plumage is vital. Among the myriad of bird species, a handful stand out for their distinctive red coloration.

These intriguing red birds, some of which are exceptionally rare, span across a diverse range of habitats, dietary preferences, and behaviors.

Understanding the Source of Red Coloration

An intriguing fact about red birds is that their vibrant coloration isn’t innately produced. Birds derive their red, orange, and yellow pigments from carotenoid molecules found in their diet.

Consumed carotenoids are metabolized in the bird’s liver and bloodstream before being deposited in the outer layers of growing feathers. While carotenoids are naturally yellow, some red birds have specialized enzymes that convert yellow carotenoids into red pigments, giving them their distinctive coloration.

The common colors observed in birds are black, white, gray, and brown, while green, blue, purple, and red are rarer.

15 Rare Red Birds

Here are 13 rare red birds that you can spot in various parts of the world. Note that while red is a relatively uncommon color among birds, a few species are entirely red. On top of this, not all birds of the same species are red. Typically, the males will be redder whilst the females have a subdued coloration.

Note: Birds included in the list exhibit a significant amount of red in their plumage. This red can range from bright scarlet to deeper hues, but the red coloration is a defining characteristic of the species.

1. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is probably the first bird that comes to mind when thinking about red birds. Prominently recognized by bird enthusiasts throughout North America, the Northern Cardinal is cherished for its brilliant red plumage and iconic “Cheer! Cheer!” song.

Interestingly, even the females of this species, which are typically pale brown, exhibit tinges of red in their feathers.

The Northern Cardinal’s vibrant coloration is thought to be a product of its diet, which comprises various seeds and fruits.

Fun Fact: The Northern Cardinal was once a popular pet in the United States. However, due to conservation efforts and laws prohibiting wild bird trade, they are now strictly protected. Today, these birds can still be found in people’s backyards, but only as visitors enjoying bird feeders and baths.

Unusual Variations of the Northern Cardinal

While the Northern Cardinal is a relatively consistent species, there have been sightings of unusual variations.

Notably, there have been reports of half-male, half-female cardinals, displaying an intriguing blend of male and female traits in their plumage. This phenomenon, known as bilateral gynandromorphism, results in half of the bird’s body developing as male and the other half as female.

Another fascinating variation is the yellow cardinal. Unlike the typical red Northern Cardinal, these unique birds sport a canary yellow plumage. The yellow coloration is believed to arise either from a genetic mutation that prevents the bird from converting yellow pigments into red or from environmental stressors that deprive the bird of adequate nutrition.

2. Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Unlike many flycatchers with more subdued plumage, the Vermilion Flycatcher stands out with its bright red-orange body contrasting against its brown back, tail, and wings. Native to the southwestern edge of the United States and found in parts of South America, these striking birds prefer to inhabit wetlands that are near rivers and streams. Their diet primarily consists of insects, which they skillfully capture mid-flight.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the male Vermilion Flycatcher performs acrobatic courtship displays to attract a mate, often involving flying high into the air and performing loops and dives?

3. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

The Scarlet Tanager, a breathtakingly beautiful bird, is often hidden away in the leafy treetops of North American forests. The males are easily identifiable by their brilliant red bodies, contrasted against black wings and tails.

However, spotting a Scarlet Tanager can be a challenge due to their preference for the forest canopy. To locate these elusive birds, learning their distinct song can be incredibly helpful.

The scarlet tanager’s melody shares a striking resemblance to the American robin’s, albeit with a bit more rasp.

It subtly deviates from the tunes of the summer and western tanagers. This bird’s call, a unique “chip-burr” or “chip-churr”, stands out instantly, setting it apart from the summer tanager’s “pit-i-tuck” and the western tanager’s gentler, rolling “pri-tic” or “prit-i-tic”.

Fun Fact: The female Scarlet Tanager is a duller yellow-green color, providing her with camouflage while she builds and incubates the nest. Once the eggs hatch, both parents take turns feeding the young.

4. Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

The Summer Tanager is one of the few birds in the United States that are almost entirely red. While males are known for their radiant red plumage, females display a more subdued yellow-green coloration. These birds are often found in the treetops, hunting for insects and feasting on a variety of berries.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Summer Tanager’s summer breeding range stretches from the southeastern United States all the way down to Central and South America? These birds make an impressive journey each year to breed and raise their young.

5. Red-billed Firefinch

The Red-billed Firefinch, with its fiery plumage and matching red bill and eye, is a sight to behold. Found across Sub-Saharan Africa, these birds are prevalent in grasslands as well as cultivated areas, often cohabitating with humans. Their diet primarily consists of seeds, but they also occasionally indulge in locally grown grains.

Fun Fact: The Red-billed Firefinch is known for its singing abilities, and males often engage in duets with their mates to strengthen their pair bond.

6. Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

The Scarlet Macaw, one of the most familiar tropical birds, is native to the forests, jungles, and broken woodlands of Central and South America.

Its striking red plumage, contrasted with blue wings and yellow accents, is unmistakable. Despite the decline in their wild populations due to trapping and poaching, these birds are a familiar sight in zoos and aviaries worldwide.

Fun Fact: The Scarlet Macaw holds the prestigious title of being the national bird of Honduras!

7. Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

The Pine Grosbeak, one of the largest finches in the United States, stands out with its raspberry-red plumage. These birds are often seen in large flocks, adding a burst of color to the landscape. They’re also frequent visitors to bird feeders during winter, favoring sunflower seeds.

Fun Fact: A mature Pine Grosbeak, capable of breeding, develops specialized pouches in the floor of its mouth. These pouches serve the purpose of carrying food to nourish their offspring.

8. ‘I’iwi

The ‘I’iwi, also known as the scarlet honeycreeper, is a vibrant finch native to the Hawaiian Islands. Its bright scarlet plumage, complemented by a long, pink bill, makes it a remarkable sight. The ‘I’iwi’s diet largely consists of nectar, which it gathers from flowers using its specialized tongue.

Fun Fact: The ʻIʻiwi holds great significance in the culture of the Hawaiian Islands. In ancient times, the red plumage of these native birds was considered sacred by the early Hawaiians. They skillfully crafted elaborate cloaks, helmets, and leis using feathers from the ʻIʻiwi and other honeycreepers. This distinctive attire symbolized social status and was reserved for special ceremonies and even battles.

9. Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis

This wading bird, with its striking all-red appearance, is a natural wonder. Native to the coastal wetlands of northern South America, the Scarlet Ibis’s vibrant coloration is a result of its diet, which consists mainly of crustaceans.

Fun Fact: The Scarlet Ibis is not only a symbol of beauty in the avian world but also holds the title of the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.

10. Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

Originating from southeastern Australia, the Crimson Rosella is a parrot that stands out with its vivid red coloration, enhanced by intricate blue and black patterns.

This stunning bird is not only a visual spectacle but also has a diverse vocal range.

The melodic call of the Crimson Rosella, characterized by bell-like notes and strident ‘cussik-cussik’ sounds, echoes in various habitats – from lush rainforests and open eucalypt forests to well-tended parks and gardens.

This parrot has seven subspecies, three of which display a crimson hue. The Yellow Rosella, replaces the red with yellow and is found along the Murray River in Australia. Another variant, the Adelaide Rosella, exhibits a mix of red, orange, and yellow.

Fun Fact: When Crimson Rosellas gather in large communal flocks for feeding, their combined colors create a mesmerizing visual spectacle.

11. Crimson Sunbird

Crimson Sunbird

Resembling hummingbirds in behavior, the Crimson Sunbird is a tiny yet vibrant bird found in southeast Asia and Indonesia. The male’s dazzling red and electric blue markings are hard to miss, even though the bird itself is only about four inches long.

Fun Fact: Despite their small stature, these birds have a big presence, thanks to their brilliant colors and rapid movements.

13. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

This woodpecker, with its bold redhead and contrasting black and white body, is a beacon of color in the eastern and central U.S. Their rhythmic pecking can often be heard before the bird is spotted.

They are omnivorous, feeding on a mix of insects, seeds, fruits, and occasionally small rodents.

Despite facing challenges such as habitat loss and competition for nesting sites, conservation efforts have helped stabilize their numbers, reflecting the resilience of this striking species.

Fun Fact: The Red-Headed Woodpecker caches food in tree crevices or under bark, a trait shared with only a few other woodpecker species.

14. Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat

Another tiny bird with striking red plumage, the Red Avadavat is native to India and Southeast Asia. The males, in particular, showcase a brilliant red coloration with white spots and a contrasting black eye stripe, lower belly, and wings.

These birds are native to the open fields and grasslands of tropical Asia, where they are a common sight, flitting in small flocks and often found near water bodies. They are known for their distinctive low ‘pseep’ call and a series of low notes that comprise their song.

Red Avadavats feed mainly on grass seeds, but during certain times, they will also consume insects like termites. They are often kept as pets due to their bright colors and chirpy nature.

Fun Fact: The Red Avadavat is also known as the Strawberry Finch because of its vibrant red color that resembles the fruit.

15. Brazilian Tanager

The Brazilian tanager, a species endemic to eastern Brazil and parts of northeastern Argentina, is easily identified by its sexually dimorphic plumage; the male boasts a bright red body with a contrasting black mask, wings, and tail, while the female is primarily grey-brown with a reddish belly and breast.

These birds are frugivorous, thriving on a diet of pulpy fruits and seeds, but they also consume insects, which contributes to their role as important pollinators.

The Brazilian tanager is known for its adaptability, often found in non-forested shrubby areas such as coastal scrubs, forest clearings, swamps, gardens, and city parks.

Despite the pressures of trapping for the caged bird trade, their population is not considered threatened, thanks in part to their tolerance of disturbed habitats. They nest in cup-shaped structures hidden among foliage, laying two to three greenish-blue eggs speckled with black, a testament to their discreet yet intricate approach to reproduction.

Fun Fact: Brazilian tanagers have a specialized tongue that helps them extract nectar from flowers, making them important pollinators in their ecosystem.

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