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New survey ranks the top 10 most attractive birds in the world. Do you agree with the results?

Imagine looking out of your window and spotting a bird. The sight of some birds might stir a sense of thrill within you, while others might not provoke much of a reaction.

A team of researchers at the Finnish Museum of Natural History set out on a fascinating quest to decipher these varying human responses towards different bird species.

Leveraging an online application, Iratebirds, the research team conducted a global examination of how we humans perceive bird appearances. This intriguing platform enabled users to express their preferences based on photographs of birds and the likes they garnered.

Scoring method for attractive birds goes from 1 to 10

Covering all the bird species known to humankind, the study has resulted in a comprehensive scoring of the most attractive birds. The system uses a scale from 1 to 10, rating the aesthetic attractiveness of almost 10,000 bird species worldwide.

“Delving into Finland’s bird viewing habits, we found that a majority of small to mid-sized, colorful birds ranked high on the attractiveness scale,” explained Anna Haukka, a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki. “In fact, among the top ten most admired species, half were birds of prey, with owls taking four spots and the remaining taken up by eagles, hawks, and falcons.”

The bird that claimed the highest accolade for attractiveness was the snow-white snowy owl. It stood out not just within Finnish borders but also registered a high likeability score on the global scale.

Typically, Finnish bird species lean towards more muted shades of brown, black, grey, and white. However, there is a small population of more vibrant species as well.

Most attractive bird scores globally lean towards birds of prey

Looking at the global picture, there’s a clear inclination towards colorful birds over birds of prey, with a higher concentration of colorful species in tropical regions compared to the north’s higher latitudes.

“Some high-scoring colorful bird species worldwide include the kingfisher, hummingbird, and bee-eater species. Notably, the long-tailed tit, mainly white in color but with distinct, beady eyes, also found favor among the smaller birds,” explained Haukka.

The current study goes beyond an amusing comparison of bird aesthetics. It provides valuable insights that can serve as critical inputs for bird conservation initiatives and understand the pet trade’s dynamics.

Attractive birds help raise conservation awareness

A bird’s appeal might partially influence conservation priorities, given that bird watching is a popular hobby that contributes significantly to human well-being. However, popular species can face increased disruption from nature tourism.

Additionally, the illegal pet trade often targets aesthetically pleasing bird species, transforming a bird’s beauty into a threat to its survival. “This is a stark example of how aesthetics can play a double-edged role in a bird’s life,” Haukka added.

Conducted at the University of Helsinki’s Finnish Museum of Natural History, this research project witnessed thousands of people engaging in the scoring of thousands of bird species’ aesthetic appeal. 

The project’s open-access data, along with its description, have been published in the journal Scientific Data. It showcases the top 10 birds worldwide with the highest score on the visual aesthetic attractiveness scale, ranging from one, indicating low aesthetic appeal, to 10, denoting high aesthetic appeal.

Top 10 birds in the world with the highest score on the visual aesthetic attractiveness scale, ranging from 1 (low aesthetic appeal) to 10 (high aesthetic appeal).

Black-backed dwarf kingfisher 8.21

Yellow-throated tucan 8.17

Lesser violetear 8.15

Violet-capped woodnymph 8.11

Rainbow bee-eater 8.10

Costa’s hummingbird 8.09

Black-billed streamertail 8.08

Malagasy kingfisher 8.06

Purple-backed Fairywren 8.04

Snowy owl 8.03 

More about birds

Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class Aves, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Here’s an overview of what we know about birds:

Evolution and classification

Birds evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, the members of which include the powerful predator Tyrannosaurus rex and the smaller velociraptors. The first known bird, Archaeopteryx lithographica, lived about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.

Birds are classified into orders, families, genera, and species. There are about 10,000 known bird species distributed among a vast range of habitats, including on all seven continents.

Physical characteristics

Birds are known for their feathers, which are unique to this group of animals. Feathers provide insulation, aid in flight, and often have distinct colors and patterns that play a role in mate selection.

All birds have beaks, or bills, which they use for feeding, grooming, and defense. The shape and size of a bird’s beak can often provide insight into its dietary habits.

Birds usually have a lightweight skeleton and hollow bones which assist in flight. They have wings, and most bird species can fly. Some birds, like penguins and ostriches, have adapted to other modes of life and lost the ability to fly, though they still have wings.

Birds lay hard-shelled eggs from which their young hatch. Most bird species are known for their parental care, with either one or both parents helping to feed and protect their young.

Bird behavior 

Bird behavior is incredibly diverse, but some common elements include social structure, communication, migration, and mating practices.

Many bird species form flocks, some comprising thousands or even millions of individuals. These flocks can offer protection from predators and help the birds find food.

Birds communicate in various ways, but vocalizations, like songs and calls, are the most common. Many species also communicate through visual signals, and some birds also use touch and smell for communication.

Migration is a common behavior in many bird species, where birds travel (sometimes over vast distances) from breeding grounds to non-breeding grounds.

Mating practices among birds are diverse. Many species form monogamous pairs, but others may be polygamous or polyandrous. Courtship often involves elaborate displays and songs.


Birds face numerous threats, including habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, hunting, and introduced species. Many conservation organizations work to protect and conserve bird species and their habitats.

Please note, there are numerous scientific subfields dedicated to studying birds, including ornithology (the study of birds), avian ecology (studying birds within their ecosystems), avian ethology (studying bird behavior), and more. It’s a vast field with new discoveries and understandings emerging regularly.


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