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The Scariest Types of Birds in the World

Updated July 27, 2020 3.1k votes 527 voters 19.8k views10 items

List RulesVote up the most terrifying species of bird you hope to never encounter in the wild.

Most people don't look at the different types of birds and think of them as dangerous. If they don't run into a pigeon, most folks don't interact with birds unless they are broken up, fried, and found in a bucket. That doesn't mean there aren't some dangerous birds out there more than capable of attacking and even killing humans. These creatures did evolve from dinosaurs after all, and while many are small and little to no threat, it's okay to fear birds—given they could swoop down and poo in your hair at any moment.

Aerial poop bombardment aside, many people are afraid of birds for a wide variety of reasons. Some are just more ugly than scary, and that stirs a primal fear response. Other, more beautiful birds are simply nasty in disposition and they won't stop before they peck your eyes out! Granted, that's not likely to happen, but you don't want to cross some of the scariest bird species out there.

Believe it or not, bird attacks on humans aren't rare, whether that's due to getting too close to their nest, perceiving us as a threat, or simply because they felt like seeing what your guts look like. Whatever their reason for attacking, it's best to let them be and enjoy watching them from a distance. Never forget... dinosaurs. They came from dinosaurs!

  • Size: Swans can get fairly large, reaching lengths of up to 67 inches with a wingspan reaching 94 inches. They typically weigh in around 23 lbs, but can reach up to 51 lbs in rare cases.

    Location: North America and Europe

    Distinguishing Features: Swans are noted for their elegantly shaped neck and white plumage. This is the bird representing the attractive end-result of the Ugly Duckling after all.

    Why You Should Be Scared: Swans are beautiful animals, but ask anyone who has had a run in with one and they will tell you they are particularly mean birds. Swans can be highly aggressive, often chasing and biting people who wander too close to them. They may seem beautiful, which lulls people into a false sense of security around them, but they should be avoided—unless you want to get bitten by a fairly large and angry bird.

    • Scientific Name: Cygnus
    Would you run from this bird?
  • Size: They can reach a length of up to 49 inches with a rather impressive wingspan of up to 9.3 feet.

    Location: South Central Asia, parts of Southern Europe, the Middle East and Western Africa

    Distinguishing Features: The Lammergeier is commonly known as the Bearded Vulture due to the fluffed out plumage along the base of its neck, which looks somewhat like a beard.

    Why You Should Be Scared: As a species of vulture, they typically only feed on carrion with a preference for subsisting almost entirely on bone. They don't often attack other animals, but have been known to snatch small mammals, which they kill with their strong talons and beak. They don't represent a threat to adults, but there have been anecdotal reports of Lammergeiers snatching small children.

    • Scientific Name: Gypaetus barbatus
    Would you run from this bird?
  • 7

    Australian Magpie

    Size: The Australian Magpie ranges between 14.5 and 17 inches in total length.

    Location: They are found all over Australia and parts of New Guinea.

    Distinguishing Features: The Australian Magpie is predominantly black with white highlights along its wingtips and the back of its neck.

    Why You Should Be Scared: Normally, these little birds will not get too close to humans and generally are accepting of having them nearby... unless it's mating season. Some of the birds, nearly all of which are male, will swoop down and attack unsuspecting people walking near their nests. They are known to attack pedestrians who wander within 50 feet of their nests, which are not easy to see from ground level. This gives the Australian Magpie a nasty reputation as being a bird who enjoys swooping down and attacking people for no clear reason.

    • Scientific Name: Cracticus tibicen
    Would you run from this bird?
  • 8

    Red-tailed Hawk

    Size: They usually reach a length of around 26 inches with a wingspan reaching up to 4.8 feet.

    Location: North America to include Northern Canada, but with ranges as far south as Panama and the West Indies.

    Distinguishing Features: The main body is typically white with outer brown feathers and a brown head. It has a majestic sounding shriek, which is commonly attributed incorrectly to the American Bald Eagle, which actually chirps.

    Why You Should Be Scared: As a bird of prey, the Red-tailed Hawk doesn't represent a normal threat to humans in that they prey on small mammals, lizards, birds, and fish. They are commonly referred to as "chicken hawks" due to their interest in eating fully-grown chickens, but this is relatively rare. If threatened, a Red-tailed Hawk can severely injure a person with their long talons and powerful beak. They should be handled with extreme care by trained professionals or otherwise avoided in the wild.

    • Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
    Would you run from this bird?