If you've ever seen Hitchcock's classic film The Birds, you know that birds can be absolutely terrifying. There are some horrific birds that are just frightening by nature, and there are some scary bird characteristics that apply to multiple species. There are birds that kill people, birds that drink blood, and even birds that projectile vomit stomach acid when threatened. Some of them are quite dangerous. The shoebill, for example, decapitates its prey, and the cassowary is an actual threat to humans. If you're one of those folks who hates birds, your fear may actually be somewhat justified.
But that's not to say that these facts are things that will make you hate birds; some of their characteristics are actually quite cool. There are adaptations that keep birds alive in inhospitable environments as well as behavioral quirks that make birds quite humorous.
So, whether you're looking for facts about birds that are scary, or just downright terrifying species of birds, you've come to the right place. Vote up the facts about birds that are disturbing or just plain terrifying: it's no wonder Hitchcock picked birds as the creep-inducing creature for his horror film.
The cuckoo is strange and diabolical enough in that it actually lays its eggs in another bird's nest so that its chick will be fed by the other mother bird, growing bigger and faster while the other chicks in the nest slowly die. However, the greater honeyguide takes it a step further: its chick is born in another bird's nest just like the cuckoo, but the honeyguide has a much shorter game plan in mind.
These chicks are born with a specialized beak sporting spikes at the tip. When the baby honeyguide finds other babies in the nest, it goes about systematically and violently killing them with this specialized beak. It stabs, chews, shakes, and does not stop until the victim stops moving. It will kill all the other chicks in the nest within an hour. Later, the baby's hook simply falls off the beak, its purpose served. In short, this baby bird is adapted perfectly to kill other chicks.
There are a few birds out there that are somewhat carnivorous, but few are as creepy as the vampire finch. These small birds live in the Galápagos, and feed in large part on the blood of other animals, including threatened blue-footed boobies. They peck at other birds until they bleed, and then they drink the blood as it flows. Weirdly enough, the blue-footed boobies don't seem to mind much, though we're not sure why. Other similar finches prefer to pick parasites off of other animals for nutrients, but the vampire finch has evolved to pecking past just the skin.
As an added creepy factor, it's also been shown that once a finch finds a victim they enjoy, they will actually return to the same animal multiple times to continue to feed. So, if a vampire finch decides you taste good, it'll be coming back for seconds.
There is often a comparison drawn between birds and dinosaurs, and perhaps no creature embodies a modern-day dinosaur better than a cassowary. These Australian birds are brightly colored and have bony-looking heads in addition to massive clawed feet. In some cases, a cassowary's kick has broken bones, killed dogs, or just ripped into human flesh. But in 1926, the unthinkable happened. Philip and Granville McLean, a pair of teenage brothers, came across a cassowary and their dog attacked it. Granville was gravely injured, and as Philip tried to run away he fell. The bird attacked him, severing an artery in his neck with its feet. The boy bled to death quickly.
Luckily, cassowaries are unlikely to attack you unless you mess with them. Research has shown that the vast majority of attacks were caused because humans provoked the birds, tried to hurt them, or offered them food. In other words, leave them alone, and they won't kick-stab you in the neck.
Perhaps one of the saddest frightening facts about birds is that they are a dwindling group of animals. In 2016, 13 bird species were declared extinct, and many are still headed in that direction. The IUCN has recognized 742 bird species in recent years, and at least 11% of those species have been found to be threatened or endangered. This has to do with illegal trade, unsustainable agriculture, and even destruction of habitat and invasive species edging them out. There are around 10,000 known species of birds in the world, and well over 1,000 of them are endangered or threatened. That's about 12%, and that number may continue to grow in coming years. So, even if you find a bird creepy or scary, remember that the world would be a much more scary place without them.