Flightless Birds: Top 10 Beautiful Birds That Can’t Fly


When you think about Birds – you imagine flight – soaring high above the prairie and the freedom to go anywhere. You might also know the name of the largest (both heaviest and tallest) flightless bird – Ostrich – which weights around 156 Kg, but do you know the name of the smallest flightless birds?

Its name is Inaccessible Island rail and is 12.5 cm in length, and weight around 34.7 g –  the smallest extant flightless bird in the world. Together, there are over 60 extant species of birds that can’t fly and through evolution lost there ability to fly forever – the Flightless Birds. The following 10 are the list of birds that can’t fly high in the sky, but nevertheless are beautiful.

10. Ostrich

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The Ostrich is the world’s largest bird and is also the fastest on land with a speed of 43 mph (70 km/h). Native to Africa, they are found mostly in the Savannas and Sahel regions.

The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird. As it is so heavy, this flightless bird can never take to the skies; instead, it’s built to run. It’s long, thick, and powerful legs can cover great distances without much effort, and its feet have only two toes for greater speed.

9. Gentoo and Emperor Penguin

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The Gentoo Penguin populating the Antarctic Peninsula, they can remain underwater for up to seven minutes looking for fish and krill. An adult Gentoo can dive 450 times during the day to hunt.

They are the third-largest penguin species alive. Adults Gentoo weigh 5–8 kg but how heavy they depend on the phase of their annual cycle. Males tend to be larger than females but the difference can be difficult to see.

The Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all penguins, they are found in Antarctica. They can stay underwater for up to 18 minutes, diving to depths of 1,755 feet (535 m) to hunt fish, krill and even squid.

They survive to breed by eating and relying on a number of clever adaptations. These flightless birds breed in the winter. After a courtship of several weeks, a female emperor penguin lays one single egg then leaves.

8. Emu

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The Emu is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia, where they can grow up to be 6.2 feet (1.9 m) in height, making them the second-largest living bird after ostriches. They are a cultural icon, featuring on the country’s coat of arms.

Emus have long necks, sharp beaks, and small ears. They have two sets of eyelids, one for blinking and one to keep out the dust. Their feet are long, with three toes. One toe on each foot has a long talon, for fighting.

7. Darwin’s Rhea

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This bird is found in the Altiplano and Patagonia in South America. The males are known to become extremely aggressive when they are incubating eggs, forcing the females to lay the later eggs near the nest, rather than in it.

It has a small head but has long legs and a long neck. It has relatively larger wings than other ratites, enabling it to run particularly well. It can reach speeds of 60 km/h (37 mph), enabling it to outrun predators, and uses its sharp claws on the toes as effective weapons.

6. Kakapo (Owl Parrot)

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Also called owl parrot, the entire population of these nocturnal, ground-dwelling parrots was moved to three islands of New Zealand – Codfish Island, Maud Island and Little Barrier Islands – to save them from predators.

They have strong legs, are excellent climbers and can walk for many miles. Kakapo possesses very soft feathers and a prominent facial disc of fine feathers, like an owl, and for this reason, it also sometimes goes by the name of owl parrot or night parrot.

5. Falkland Steamer Duck

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As would be expected from its name, this flightless duck is endemic to the Falklands, where it inhabits low-lying coastal areas and relatively nearby ponds. Known to be aggressive, they are found along the shores of the Southern Atlantic Island.

These birds earned their name by running across water and thrashing their wings to create a large cloud of spray – like a ship’s prow plowing through the water.

4. Little Spotted Kiwi

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Found in New Zealand, they are the smallest of the five kiwi species. These nocturnal birds have poor eyesight and rely on their sense of smell, their beak, and talons to hunt. Mostly invertebrates – Little spotted kiwis feed on fallen fruits, leaves and fern sporangia. Evergreen forest and mature deciduous forest with dense undergrowth are their favourite habitat.

3. Tasmanian Native-hen

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The Tasmanian Native-Hen is a flightless rail and one of twelve species of birds endemic to the Australian island of Tasmania. They use their wings to balance themselves while running at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h).

‘Turbo chook’ is the affectionate name given to the Tasmanian Native-Hen. However, they have no relationship to domestic chickens but belong to a group of waterfowl known as rails.

2. Giant Coot

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Found in the Altiplano of South America, it is extremely territorial and therefore, doesn’t live in colonies. The Giant Coot is blackish with shades of grey. The lower mandible and near the tip of the upper mandible are bright crimson. The sides of the upper mandible are yellow with a white center.

1. Cassowary (Northern and Southern Cassowary)

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The Northern Cassowary easily identified by its golden neck, they are found in northern New Guinea. Rather shy, they have daggerlike claws and have been known to kill humans if threatened.

The Southern Cassowary was found in the rainforests of northeastern Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, the third-largest bird on the planet can attack humans and dogs if provoked.