Birds With Crests You Should Check Out

Secretary bird

A bird’s crest is a collection of feathers on its head, that is sometimes called a crown, and is usually used in mating and communication. A bird’s crest can be dramatic and large like a Grey Crowned Crane or small and tufted like a Blue Jay.

Birds may use their crests to attract a mate and to communicate when they are threatened or excited. Their crests may be on show all of the time or they may lay flat on their heads.

Some birds only have their crests during the breeding season and then they molt and lose them, such as Great-crested Grebes.

Many birds have crests and here is a large collection of fantastic crests, both big and small, for you to view.

Indian Peafowl


Peacocks live in woodland and forest in the wild, but they adapt well to different environments and captivity.  They live in the wild in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and also the Congo Basin. 

These showy birds spend most of their time scratching around on the ground but if you are lucky enough to see them gracefully flying it is amazing.

The crest of the peacock is thought to be able to pick up vibrations during mating tail displays.

Northern Lapwing

Northern lapwings are waders that live in Europe and Siberia. They migrate over large distances from North Africa and southern Asia to northern Europe and Siberia.

Male Northern Lapwings have longer crests than females and young birds. They make a pee-wit call and so they are also referred to as peewits.

Rock Hopper Penguin

Rock hopper penguin

Rockhopper Penguins are small penguins that live in cold areas on islands in the southern Atlantic and in South America, the southern Indian Ocean and around New Zealand.

They have the most dramatic crest of any penguin but baby Rockhopper Penguins are not born with crests, they grow as they get older.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Victoria Crowned pigeon

Victoria crowned pigeons have amazing feathers on their head that form an elegant show-stopping crest. These birds with big hair live in New Guinea, which is north of Australia.

This bird’s hair is so fabulous it was named after the British queen, Queen Victoria.

Eurasian Hoopoe

Eurasian Hoopoe

Eurasian Hoopoes are birds with a fabulous crown of feathers on their head that they can raise in a dramatic display. The black tips on the head feathers really draw attention to this large head display.

Eurasian Hoopoes live in Europe, Asia and North Africa and there are nine subspecies.

The beak of a Hoopoe is long, strong and sharp and they have extra strong muscles to allow them to open their bill when in the soil.

 Hoopoes have some nasty habits, they stab each other with their beaks during fights and may blind rivals. Females and young Hoopoes make a disgusting-smelling liquid that covers the chicks and the nests to stop predators.

Silver Pheasant

male silver pheasant

The white feathers extending down the back and into the long tail, in the male Silver Pheasant, look like long hair flowing down their backs. They have a black crest and red bare skin forming a wattle on their faces.

They live in forests in the mountains of South East Asia and China.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are common large songbirds with a blue upright crest, blue and black backs, and white undersides.  They are a common backyard bird in many US states.

They are noisy birds that travel in family groups eating acorns when available. Mostly resident but may migrate from the far northwest of US and can migrate in large flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coast.

Stellar’s Jay

stellars jay

Steller’s Jays are large songbirds with black triangular crests that stick up from their heads.  The rest of their heads and onto their chests and back are black, with the rest of their bodies being blue.

They can be found in evergreen forests in the mountains and they will also be found around picnic tables.

Stellar’s Jays eat most things they can forage for, including insects, seeds, nuts, berries, eggs, and nestlings, but also making a nuisance of themselves around garbage and your unguarded picnic! campgrounds, and backyard feeders. They make nests out of mud.

Grey Crowned Crane

grey crowned crane

These tall birds with spiky hair live in eastern and southern Africa. They are over 3 ft tall (1m) and weigh 7.7 lbs (3.5 kg).

The stiff hair-like feathers on this bird’s head frame their dramatic black, white and red faces.

They also have long grey feathers cascading over their bodies which look like hair.

Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal male and female for identification

The bright red male Northern Cardinal with black around their faces is a great sight, especially against a white winter background.  The females are also a little showy with their brown coloring, sharp brown crest, red highlights, and red beaks. They are a common backyard bird in North America.

Northern Cardinals will sometimes attack their own reflection during breeding season as they obsessively defend their territories.

Palm Cockatoo

palm cockatoo

The Palm Cockatoo has a large black mohawk and red face patches. It is the largest cockatoo in Australia and arguably in the world. They have one of the biggest beaks of any parrots.

They use their large beak to break off thick sticks to use for a drumming display and they may be as thick as 1 inch (3 cm).

Crested Duck


These birds with hair on top of their heads look coiffured as if they have stepped straight out of a hair salon.

The crest is a genetic mutation causing a skull deformity that can kill this duck.

This duck is originally from the East Indies and was brought back to Europe due to its unusual head feathers.

Not all chicks born to Crested Ducks will have the crest as it is a genetic mutation that is not always passed on.

Red-crested Turaco


These birds with red feathers on their heads live in Africa. They sound like a monkey and are quite large.

Flocks of up to 30 of these birds with red hair adorn the trees.

The red head feathers are 2 inches high (5 cm) and really stand out against the green body.

Bare-faced Go Away Bird

The large mohawk on this species of turaco contrasts with their bare black faces. They live in Africa and are noisy birds with long tails.

Their name comes from the loud ‘go away’ call they make. The Bare-faced Go-Away Bird is quite drab in comparison to other turacos.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker for identification in west virginia

Pileated Woodpeckers are one of the biggest woodpeckers being nearly the size of a crow. It is mostly black with a red mohawk and white stripes.  When flying the white underside of the wings can be seen. Males have an additional red stripe on the cheek.

Pileated woodpeckers can be found mostly in eastern US states but also across Canada ad down the west coast into California.

Polish Chicken

Polish frizzle chicken

What’s not to love about this funky-haired chicken. Their hair is so long it affects their ability to see properly and they certainly look like they need a haircut!

There are 3 varieties, bearded, non-bearded and frizzle. They are often used as show birds but they are also good egg layers.



A tiny species of a cockatoo with a yellow mohawk from Australia. A popular pet bird that uses its crest to show when they are excited or scared.

They are grey in the wild but over 22 color mutations bread in captive birds. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years but one was recorded as living for 36 years. 

Himalayan Monal

Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus).

A large pheasant that lives in the Himalayan forests. Himalayan Monals are about 28 inches (70 cm) long and weigh between 76 oz – 84 oz (2150g – 2380g).

The males are bright multicolored birds with long metallic green crests. Females are mostly brown and without the crest.

They were once hunted for their crest feathers to decorate men’s hats, but this has now been banned.

Secretary Bird

Secretary bird

A large bird of prey from Africa, the secretary bird can be as tall as 4ft 3 in (1.3 m). They have very long legs and long black crest feathers.

Males tend to have bigger crests than females and longer tail feathers. They spend much of their time on the ground, running on their long legs, to catch insects, small mammals and lizards and snakes.

Red-Whiskered Bulbul


This bird with a spikey crest is originally from India but now lives in the US after escaping from an aviary in Miami.

Red-whiskered Bulbul travels in flocks, eating fruits and insects.



The tufted white hair on this male duck’s crest looks sophisticated. They live in Europe and feed on fish.

They nest in old woodpeckers’ nests in trees.

Demoiselle Crane


Demoiselle Cranes are birds with long hair that arcs from its eye down over their slender necks.

The Demoiselle Crane is the smallest species of crane and they live in Eurasia.

These cranes have to fly over the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas, during their migartion.

They put on a great dancing display during the breeding season.

Great Crested Flycatcher


Great Crested Flycatchers are small brown birds with yellow bellies and gray throats. They have reddish flashed in the wing and tail feathers. The crest is not very obvious.

Great Crested Flycatchers breed over much of Eastern North America and spend the winter in southern Florida, southern Mexico, and Central America.

They sit perched up high in woodland waiting for large insects flying such as butterflies, grasshoppers, moths, wasps, and also spiders

Crested Partridge

crested partridge

Wow, this spectacular bird with red hair is the Crested Partridge and the red bare skin around their eyes is so unusual.

They live in Southeast Asia on the ground looking for insects in the leaf litter.

Great Curassow


Large birds with long crest feathers on their heads. These birds have head feathers that stick up in a fan shape, framed against the bright yellow beak.

Great Curassow live in Mexico and Central America in groups of around 10 and they mainly forage on the ground but roost at night in the trees.

They can be aggressive, even to humans and can live for a long time of at least 24 years.

They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse is a gray bird and white underneath with a cute gray crest and large eyes that often flock with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

Tufted Titmice live in Eastern and Southeastern US States all year.

Tufted Titmice can be assertive over smaller birds and are found in woodlands, parks, and at backyard feeders. They eat mostly insects in summer including caterpillars, beetles, ants, and wasps as well as spiders and snails. They will also eat seeds, nuts, and berries and will hoard shelled seeds.

Crested Caracara


Crested Caracara often walk on the ground or perch on isolated trees in open areas in Central and South America. They are part of the falcon family and can often be seen joining vultures at carcasses.

They are medium-sized raptors with a shaggy crest and distinctive orange skin around their beaks.

White-crested helmetshrike

hite-Crested Helmetshrike

The bright yellow eye wattle really stands out, along with the spiky white crest on the White-crested Helmetshrike.

They live in Africa and feed in groups in the woods looking for insects.

Great Crested Grebe


The largest grebe found in Europe, with fan-like head feathers in summer. The head feathers are used in courtship displays as the bird rises out of the water and shakes their heads.

They were hunted to extinction in the UK for their head feathers, which were used on ladies’ hats.

In winter the Great-crested Grebe changes to less dramatic black-and-white head feathers without the large mane-like appearance.

Harpy Eagle

Harpy eagle

Often cited as the largest eagle the Harpy Eagle is a rare and beautiful sight. Along with the Philippine eagle and Steller’s eagle, the Harpy eagle is often cited as the largest eagle in the world.

The national bird of Panama the Harpy eagle is rarely seen due to its remote forest habitat.

Harpy Eagles are very distinctive with long dark gray crest feathers on their heads which stand up when they feel threatened.

They are dark gray on the back and mostly white underneath with striped legs and a paler gray head. Their beaks are large, hooked and black.

Check out these amazing Harpy Eagle Facts to find out more about these unusual birds.

Crested Barbet

crested barbet

A colorful bird from Africa, the Crested Barbet is small with a black crest on its yellow head. They feed on insects, eggs and mice.

They nest in holes in trees or logs often in gardens. They can be aggressive to other birds in their territory and chase off other nesting birds such as doves and thrushes.

Crested Auklet

crested anklet

A social seabird that nests in colonies of up to 1 million by the Bering sea.  Their forehead crest and a scent similar to citrus fruit are thought to have evolved due to sexual selection.

Their crests are usually around 12 crest feathers, which curve forward over the face and stubby orange beak.

Crested Kingfisher

A large kingfisher from southern Asia with a black and white scruffy crest. They are 16 – 17 inches (41- 43 cm) long and make nests in vertical banks in forests by digging a hole with their feet and beaks.



A crested hummingbird from South America, the Rufous-crested-coquette is rarely seen as it is so small. They are only around 2 -2.5 inches in length (6 – 7 cm).

They forage over large areas of open ground with nectar-producing plants.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo


The yellow crest of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo matches the yellow highlights under the wing and tail.

They live in Australia and New Guinea and can be considered pests due to their destructive habits on crops and timber on houses and buildings.

They are highly intelligent birds that can be quite long-lived.

Dalmation Pelican

Dalmatian pelican

The largest pelican in the world has fabulous shaggy hair, giving this pelican an ungroomed appearance.

They can be 5 – 6 ft in length (160 – 180 cm) and have a wingspan of over 11 ft (350 cm).

They live in central Eurasia, feeding on fish in freshwater lakes and rivers.

Royal Flycatcher

Royal flycatcher

This predominantly brown flycatcher hides a bright red and blue-tipped fanned crest. Although this great hairstyle is usually hidden until courtship and breeding season.

They live in Mexico, Central and South America.

Curl-crested aracari

Curl-crested aracari

This curly-haired member of the toucan family lives in the Amazon. They feed mainly on fruit but have also been known to take nestlings of other birds.

They are often kept as pets and are active and lively birds.

Guianan cock-of-the-rock

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Orange-haired birds of South America that build nests in rocky areas. Their bright fan crests and heads are striking against the black body.

Great Blue Turaco

The spikey-haired Great Blue Turaco is the largest species of Turaco and is around 30 inches in length (75 cm). Their dramatic crest stands proudly upright on their crown.

They live in Africa in the Congo and are hunted for meat and their feathers.

Tufted Puffin

tufted puffin

The white face mask and flowing hair of this bird during mating season is a sight you need to see along the coast of northwestern states and Alaska.

Up to 3 million birds nest in deep burrows in coastal areas.

Red-legged Seriema

red legged seriema

Used as guard animals by farmers to protect poultry in South America from predators, Red-legged Seriema has long spiky crest above their beak.

They make loud calls when threatened and attack with their claws and beak while running at their foe.

Golden Pheasant


This golden-haired bird from China has a long tail and fanned rings of feathers like a cape down its neck. The long crest extends down its back.

They hide in woodland and despite their bright colors, they are hard to find.

White-crested Laughingthrush


This noisy bird with a white crest lives in Southeast Asia and is 10 inches long (30 cm).  They tend to live in higher ground in the foothill of mountains in dense shady areas, hidden from predators.

Their name comes from the loud calls they make often in chorus.