Pictures of Red Birds

Which Birds Have the Reddest Plumage in the World?

Summer Tanager
Dan Pancamo/Flickr/Used With Permission
  • 01 of 12

    Northern Cardinal

    Northern Cardinal
    Jen Goellnitz/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    The color of a bird’s plumage is critical for many reasons. Birders frequently use color and markings to identify a bird, and birds have excellent color vision that helps them select a mate or repel an intruder. Brighter plumage often signals strength and good health, and many birds complete annual molts prior to the breeding season to refresh their colors in the hopes of attracting the most desirable mate.

    Of all colors, red is one of the most vibrant and easily seen shades, and there are many beautiful red birds throughout the world. The species represented here are the reddest, most colorful birds on the globe, and each one would be a colorful addition to any birder’s life list.

    Common Name: Northern Cardinal
    Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

    The northern cardinal is one of the most familiar red songbirds in North America, so familiar that it has been honored as the state bird of seven states. Male northern cardinals are brilliantly red all over with a contrasting black facial mask, and even the bill is red. Females are dull brown but show a distinct red tinge or wash over their plumage, particularly on the head, tail, and wings. These birds are particularly well known for their color because they do not turn a duller shade in different seasons. The bright red of a northern cardinal is often a welcome sight in winter backyards throughout the eastern, central, and southeastern United States, as well as eastern Mexico.

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  • 02 of 12

    Vermilion Flycatcher

    Vermilion Flycatcher
    Joan Gellatly/Flicker/Used With Permission

    Common Name: Vermilion Flycatcher
    Scientific NamePyrocephalus rubinus

    Most flycatchers are relatively dull and drab, but the vermilion flycatcher is the most brilliantly colored specimen. Males have striking red underparts that contrast strongly with the brown back, tail, and wings, and may even seem to glow in bright sunlight. Females are less bold, but still have a red wash on their underparts that can be eye-catching. These birds can be found in the summer throughout Mexico and in parts of South America, with their range extending as far north as the southwestern edge of the United States. In winter, many populations migrate to Brazil or the Gulf coast of Mexico.

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  • 03 of 12

    Summer Tanager

    Summer Tanager
    Dan Pancamo/Flickr/Used With Permission

    Common Name: Summer Tanager
    Scientific Name: Piranga rubra

    The summer tanager is distinctive in that the males are almost purely red, without markings or patterns, though the wings may appear slightly darker. Females are also plain but a dull yellow instead of red, and both genders keep the same coloration throughout the year. Juvenile birds often show a curious mottling of the red and yellow plumage as they mature. These birds prefer treetops and tall forests, and can be found in the northeast and midwestern United States in the summer. In the winter, these birds migrate to tropical regions of Mexico and Central America.

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  • 04 of 12

    Scarlet Ibis

    Scarlet Ibis
    Linda Tanner/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Common Name: Scarlet Ibis
    Scientific Name: Eudocimus ruber

    The scarlet ibis is one of the most brilliantly colored wading birds in the world, and both males and females show this bright plumage. Even these birds' legs and bills have a reddish hue, though they may appear duller in the non-breeding season. These wetland birds are native to coastal wetlands, swamps, and estuaries of northern South America from Venezuela to Brazil, but they are also popular residents of zoos and wildlife attractions throughout the world.

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  • 05 of 12

    Crimson Rosella

    Crimson Rosella
    Steve Shattuck/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Common Name: Crimson Rosella
    Scientific Name: Platycercus elegans

    The crimson rosella is a richly colored parrot native to southeastern Australia. While many parrot species have brilliant plumage, none have as striking red coloration than the boldly contrasting red, blue, and black patterns of this species. These bold colors are all the more stunning when the birds gather in large communal flocks for feeding. Both males and females show similar coloration, though males are generally larger.

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  • 06 of 12

    Crimson Sunbird

    Crimson Sunbird
    Lip Kee Yap/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    Common Name: Crimson Sunbird
    Scientific Name: Aethopyga siparaja

    Sunbirds are similar to hummingbirds in that they feed on insects and nectar, and their small size and impressive speed can turn them into a colorful blur. The crimson sunbird is only four inches long, but the male’s bright red plumage and electric blue markings make it instantly noticeable, no matter how small it may be. Females, however, have no red coloration and instead are a dull olive-green for better camouflage. This species is found in forests throughout southeast Asia and Indonesia.

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  • 07 of 12

    Scarlet Macaw

    Scarlet Macaw
    eflon/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Common Name: Scarlet Macaw
    Scientific Name: Ara macao

    The scarlet macaw is one of the most familiar tropical birds and can be found in forests, jungles, and broken woodland of Central and South America. The red plumage with blue wings and yellow accents is unmistakable, and both male and female birds have similar coloration and markings. The most brilliant red is seen from underneath as these birds fly, however, when they appear solidly red. While wild numbers of scarlet macaws are declining in many areas because of trapping and poaching, these are familiar birds in zoos and aviaries around the world.

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  • 08 of 12

    Pine Grosbeak

    Pine Grosbeak
    Ron Knight/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Common Name: Pine Grosbeak
    Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator

    The pine grosbeak is a common winter finch found in boreal and taiga habitats throughout the northern regions of Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia. These bold raspberry red birds have regular irruption years when large populations will extend much further south than usual, bringing a burst of color to many yards. It's important to note that only the males are red, however, and females are a dull yellow instead, which helps hide them while nesting.

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  • 09 of 12

    Red-Billed Firefinch

    Red-Billed Firefinch
    Steve Garvie/Flickr/Used With Permission

    Common Name: Red-Billed Firefinch
    Scientific Name: Lagonosticta senegala

    The red-billed firefinch is aptly named for its fiery plumage and matching red bill and eye. The bird’s only distinctive marking, other than slightly duller color on the wings, is its brilliantly yellow eye ring, and even the legs and feet are red. Female birds lack the red coloration and instead are a more camouflaged olive yellow. These birds can be found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and are common in mixed flocks near urban and suburban areas.

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  • 10 of 12

    Painted Bunting

    Painted Bunting
    Dan Pancamo/Flickr/Used With Permission

    Common Name: Painted Bunting
    Scientific Name: Passerina ciris

    The painted bunting not only has a brilliant red chin, chest, abdomen, and rump, but the rest of its plumage is similarly bold in shades of green, yellow, and blue. As with most brightly colored species, however, females are much plainer and lack the bright colors of the male. Painted buntings can be found year-round in the southern United States as well as throughout coastal Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean during the winter months.

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  • 11 of 12

    Cassin's Finch

    Cassin's Finch
    ALAN SCHMIERER/Flickr/Public Domain

    Common Name: Cassin's Finch
    Scientific Name: Carpodacus cassinii

    The Cassin’s finch is a boldly colored finch of the mountains of western North America. While these birds do not have the strong allover red color of many other red birds, they are a perfect example of a color “wash” that adds an instantly recognizable tinge to a bird’s plumage. Cassin’s finches do have a bright red cap, and the red wash continues over the head, cheeks, chest, and flanks. Females lack all the red coloration, however, but are boldly streaked with buff and brown.

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  • 12 of 12

    Red-Headed Woodpecker

    Red-Headed Woodpecker
    Dan Pancamo/Flickr/Used With Permission

    Common Name: Red-Headed Woodpecker
    Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

    For some birds, while their plumage may not be entirely red, specific red markings are their most noticeable feature. The red-headed woodpecker is a prime example, with the bold red head, chest, and upper throat standing out against the bird’s neutral black and white back, wings, and abdomen. Both males and females share this bold coloration. These woodpeckers are bright spots of color in the eastern and central United States, as well as the southern edge of central and eastern Canada.