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.
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The Greater Honeyguide Is A Born Killing Machine
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.
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The Vampire Finch Survives On Blood
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.
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Cassowaries Can Kill People
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.
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Shrikes Impale Their Prey With Thorns
If you were to see a shrike while out and about, you might think they look pretty cute. However, what you are really seeing is a vicious and sadistic little bird. The shrike, upon killing its prey, traditionally uses its curved beak to strike a death blow. But even then the victim's torture is not at an end. After death, the bird takes the body, finds a thorny tree or even barbed wire, and impales its prey onto the spike. Occasionally it even does this while the victim is still alive. Bird watchers may find small lizards and rodents stuck on barbed wire fences or trees while searching for any of the 30 species of shrike.
But why does the shrike do this? For one thing, the bird has sensitive feet, so it cannot hold its prey and sit on a branch at the same time. So the shrike uses said spikes to hold food still for eating and storage. However, shrikes also do this because female shrikes are attracted to all those dead bodies. The more dead bodies a male has on his turf, the more likely he is to get a female. They may even decorate the bodies of their prey with ribbons and shiny objects.