Can You Identify These Bird Species If We Give Them Arms?

Marie Hullett

This giant bird boasts the largest eyes of any land animal. (Don't be fooled, though: it doesn't actually have the longest arms.) Do you know its name?

The eye of an ostrich is about the size of a billiard ball — larger than its brain. This explains why the ostrich isn't exactly known for its intellect: it tends to run around in circles, aimlessly. The largest, heaviest living bird on Earth, the ostrich can reach speeds of 43 miles per hour, though, so you definitely want to watch out.

Do you know what this songbird, aptly nicknamed the redbird, is called?

The medium thick-billed cardinal is among the most widespread of North American birds. They're easily identified by their clear whistle and vibrant scarlet hue. One weird thing they do that scientists can't explain, though: they sometimes smear living or dead ants all over their wings. Experts think this may be a form of insect repellent.

This little bird is among the most popular caged species around the globe. If it had arms in real life, though, who knows? Maybe it would just open the gate and hightail it out of there. What is it?

Thanks to over 400 years of selective breeding on behalf of humans, the canary sings beautifully and typically possesses a lovely yellow color. It can live from 10 to 20 years and sings all the live-long day.

Even with arms, you probably recognize this nocturnal raptor: it's an owl, of course. What kind is it?

When you hear "horned owl," most people picture the great horned owl of the Americas, which ranges from South America to the Arctic. With a wingspan of up to 4.6 feet and claws capable of carrying off hens, you don't want to challenge an owl. While they typically tear up larger prey, sometimes they even swallow it whole. Gulp.

You surely recognize this aquatic bird: it's a duck! And with arms, it's not unlike Daffy. What breed of duck is pictured here, though?

The mallard duck, native to the Northern Hemisphere, is the ancestor of most types of domestic ducks. If you hear a mallard quack, it's a female: they're the only ones who make that sound. Take a peek while they sleep, if you can, because the "guard" ducks on the perimeter often sleep with one eye open, just in case. Handy trick, right?

This little avian dinosaur has arms here, but you still might be able to recognize it. What's your best guess?

The woodpecker family includes over 180 species of birds, which appear nearly all over the world. As their name suggests, you can often find them pecking away at trees, in search of insects. In spring, male woodpeckers make raucous noise, both by pecking and calling, as they attempt to hold down their territories.

Can you name this species of terrestrial cuckoo, also called the chaparral cock?

Beep beep! It's Roadrunner, from everyone's favorite throwback cartoons, "Looney Tunes." Native to the deserts of Mexico and the southwestern U.S., roadrunners reach about 22 inches long and are notoriously clumsy flyers. As such, they typically prefer to scurry along roads or across flatlands, much in the manner of Wile E. Coyote's pal.

This bird sure has lovely locks (and arms!). Do you know what kind it is?

The largest of all puffin species, the tufted puffin lives in the colder waters of the North Pacific. During mating season, golden plumage resembling hair sprouts atop both male and female heads. Afterward, the plumage disappears. Another fun fact: the tufted puffin can hold up to 20 fish in its mouth to bring back to its chicks!

You can probably name this popular flightless (and, sadly, normally armless) bird. What is it?

Flamingos are easily recognizable across the globe, though they mostly live in South America, Africa, the Middle East and India, around lakes and lagoons. In recent years, there have been two sightings of ultra-rare black flamingos, which occur due to the genetic condition melanism.

What is the common name of this striking tropical bird?

There are about 35 species of this vibrant bird, all of which are known for their big bills and awe-inspiring color. Its bill can reach nearly half of its total length and is made from ultra-lightweight material, akin to human fingernail. Even still, the big beak, short wings and long tail make the toucan a poor, clumsy flyer.

Scientists think this songbird is related to the Old World's warblers and flycatchers. Do you know what it's called?

A thrush can be identified by its slender bill and "booted" lower leg, which means it features just one single scale instead of several smaller ones, like most birds. They live nearly everywhere, with the most varieties found in Africa.

This species is among the largest flying birds in the world. Can you name it?

With a wingspan up to 10.5 feet and weight up to 33 pounds, the fact that these fairly large creatures can take flight is pretty impressive. There are two varieties: the black Andean condor and the slightly smaller California condor. Unfortunately, the latter is critically endangered.

This European songbird is closely related to the chickadee. Do you know what it is?

Although they're small, blue tits are known for their intellect and impressive adaptive behaviors. For instance, in some U.K. towns, blue tits notoriously followed milk delivery people, puncturing the foil lids on bottles and extracting the milk for themselves. European robins have also reportedly attempted the thievery, though with much less success.

This pretty bird is known for its raucous ways. Do you know its name?

There are more than 30 species of jays, which belong to the family Corvidae, alongside the likes of crows, ravens, magpies and nutcrackers. Many jays are known to make a lot of noise and steal eggs from other birds.

This fast-flying bird weighs less than a nickel, on average. You can probably guess that it's a hummingbird, but what type is this one, specifically?

The greatest variety of hummingbirds can be found in South America, but about a dozen species live in the U.S. and Canada, including the ruby-throated hummingbird. The bee hummingbird is the world's smallest bird, which barely reaches two inches and weighs about .06 ounces. The largest hummingbird in the world, aptly named the giant hummingbird, measures up to 9 inches. Also, did you know that hummingbirds can fly backward?

This strange bird (with or without arms!) is often dubbed an "honorary mammal." What is it?

These flightless birds possess feathers that feel a lot like hair, as well as dense, marrow-filled bones and nostrils on the nose-tip (rather than at the beak's base, like most birds). With so much in common with warm-blooded mammals, we might as well just welcome them to the club, right?

You likely recognize this pretty bird: it's a parrot! What kind is this one in particular, though?

Most parrots can learn perhaps a few dozen words, whereas the super-smart African grey parrot can often learn many more. One African grey at Tennessee's Knoxville Zoo, the 30-year-old Einstein, can produce over 200 words and sounds. We mean, we can barely say 200 words!

There are at least 115 types of parakeets in the world. Do you know what kind this one is?

The adorable budgie, a common parakeet, is the only bird species that scientists know for sure is susceptible to contagious yawning. Alongside the likes of humans, dogs, cats, chimps and rats, the budgie is the first non-mammal known to engage in this behavior, which scientists think might be a way to display empathy.

This bird is known for its brightly-hued feet and clumsy ambling. Can you name it?

The blue-footed booby lives near the Pacific shorelines of Central and South America. Its vibrant blue feet, which almost look spray-painted on, occurred through sexual selection. The "booby" part of its name is derived from the Spanish word "bobo," a rough translation of "clown" or "stupid."

Wow, a beak like that almost steals the show from its funny arms. This bird definitely has a name that fits its bill, too. Can you guess what it is?

The shoebill stork's beak kind of resembles a clog and is perhaps the most memorable in all the Aves class. Coupled with a strong jaw, the hardened bill serves to help it quickly dismember prey. This bird mostly gobbles up fish, amphibians, reptiles and some smaller birds.

The bird pictured here is part of a large family of brownish birds. Can you guess its common name?

Most wrens live in North America, but the Eurasian wren prefers Europe and parts of Asia. These small, stout birds hunt insects among marshes, rocks and shrubs. While often impeccably camouflaged, they can be spotted through their endless chattering and lively song.

Even if you don't recognize this bird, you're definitely familiar with its markedly less beautiful, pedestrian cousin. What's this feathered creature's name?

The Victoria crowned pigeon is clearly no ordinary pigeon. Located in New Guinea, this bird boasts rich sapphire plumage with a lace-like crest. Roughly the size of a chicken, it's also the largest living species of pigeon.

This stunning bird engages in one of the most awe-inspiring mating dances of all time. Do you know the species name?

Male birds of paradise exhibit visually striking colors and adornments, like elongated feathers, enormous head plumage, head fans or breast shields. They also perform incredibly elaborate dances to impress potential mates. You definitely have to see it to believe it — one such ritual is captured on "Planet Earth."

In central and southern China, locals believe that the sight of this bird will bring good fortune. Do you know what it's called?

The golden pheasant exists in a stunning array of colors and patterns, with gold typically being a focal hue. They mostly munch on bamboo, insects, seeds, berries and flowers, and they are relatively small. Since they're poor flyers, they typically stay on the ground.

This impressive bird reaches record-breaking speeds in flight. What's it called?

By flying high in the air and then plunging carefully downward, falcons can fly up to a remarkable 240 miles per hour, which makes them the fastest birds in the world. Naturally, this speed advantage helps them capture smaller birds before they can even see what's coming.

My, what a nice gular pouch this bird has — and arms, too. What is it?

The giant-beaked magnificent frigatebird seems to float in the air, rarely flapping its wings. The male has an immense red gular pouch that covers almost half of its body. Aside from their impressive protrusion, they're mostly known for trying to force other birds to drop or regurgitate their food so they can eat it. Yum!

Can you identify this much-loved species of garden bird?

About 80 species of wren live across North and South America. One breed, the canyon wren, is notable for its tendency to move several stones to form a pathway in front of its nesting site. Its prolific landscaping skills have earned it the nickname "the patio decorator."

This thrush has a particularly peculiar mating technique. Can you guess its name?

When Swainson’s thrush birds arrive from North America after wintering in South America, the males quickly claim their territories in the forest. Then, in a bizarre game of "hard-to-get," they aggressively defend their homes from female birds. Eventually, they give in. Afterward, they sometimes stay with the same mate year after year.

My, what a long tail this bird has — and arms, too. Can you guess its name?

The male ribbon tailed Astrapia is about a foot long with a three-foot decorative tail, which is the longest tail-to-body ratio of all birds. Though the males tend to trip on them from time to time, it might be worth it: they're designed to impress the females.

You definitely don't want to get in a fight with this large bird, even without any arms on its sides. Can you name it?

Belonging to the Casuariiformes order, alongside the emu, there are three species of cassowary. The largest species inhabits New Guinea, surrounding islands and Australia and can reach five feet tall. They can sprint up to 31 miles per hour and are known to slice and kill humans with their razor-sharp, clawed feet — yikes, right? Unfortunately, in 2019 one of these rare birds killed a Florida man who kept it as a pet. Yeah, you probably shouldn't adopt one, either.

Do you know the name of this dark, heavy-billed bird?

There are about 10 known species of ravens in the world. While they're closely related to crows, ravens possess heavier bills and more shaggy plumage; their feathers also tend to have a slight purple or blue hue. Scientists think ravens are among the smartest animals in the world. They can remember faces for up to a few years and, in captivity, can imitate human speech even better than some parrots. They can also mimic a variety of noises, including car engines and other animal sounds.

This lustrous bird is known for its elaborate construction techniques. Do you know what it is?

The male bowerbird can be seen arranging an intricate array of found bright objects in hopes of impressing his prospective mate. This structure is called the "bower," which he then sings and dances loudly above. These birds live in New Guinea and Australia.

This impressive bird of prey has no close relatives, unlike most birds. Can you name it?

You can find the osprey near water throughout the Americas. The bird deftly plunges into the water, seizing (typically large) fish with its talons before flying off. Unlike other birds, they carry fish perfectly parallel to their bodies to improve flight handling, which makes them look a bit like an airplane with a fuel tank.

This bird species is typically not known for its good looks, but this variety is particularly striking — even without arms! What is it?

Nicknamed the "beautiful vulture," the lammergeier feeds on marrow from shattered bones after it drops them from steep heights. Most remarkably, though, this bird frequently dyes its feathers, using natural substances. They primarily use mineralized clay to color their feathers, creating highlights even your hairstylist would approve of.

This little bird, a species of nightjar, is unique for its ability to hibernate. Do you know what it's called?

While most people typically think of bears when they hear the word "hibernation," some birds, like hummingbirds and swifts, can slow their metabolism on cold nights. The common poorwill, though, is the only bird we know of that can enter a full hibernation state. When the desert landscape in which it dwells cools and the insects it feeds on vanish, the common poorwill burrows into a rock crevice until spring comes knocking.

Though this strange-looking bird is a close relative of the owl, it's not actually one. Do you know what it is?

Related to nightjars and owls, the silly-looking frogmouth spends much of its time patiently awaiting insects, much like a frog. Not much of an aerodynamicist, though, it tends to be a bit clumsy and lazy in its hunt.

Don't let the arms in this photo fool you. This is a bird — seriously. What kind is it?

As the name suggests, the bluebird is indeed blue in color. There are three species of this colorful avian creature in North America, all of which sing softly and sweetly. Some boast a vibrant red breast.

This bird is nicknamed "stink bird" for its unfortunate stench. Do you know its real name?

The Amazon Basin's hoatzin bird typically smells strongly of cow manure and hay. It munches solely on leaves, which it digests very, very slowly with help from its gullet and crop that serve as fermentation houses (yeah, hence the smell). Strangely, the baby hoatzin possesses claws on each wing — almost like arms — which it uses for climbing. After three months, the claws disappear.

This predatory seabird is known for its aggressive tactics. Can you name it?

Arctic skuas, also known as parasitic jaegers, typically nest on the ground in Arctic and temperate regions. If they see another seabird grab a fish, the skua often will harass it in flight until they drop their meal. Then, the skua will catch the snack in midair and fly away. Rude!

You've probably seen a thrush before, but here's a specific variety. Do you know what kind this one is?

The Bassian thrush, native to Australia, looks as brown and average as many birds. What is not ordinary about it, though, is that it uses its flatulence to draw prey from the ground. For instance, if it locates a worm hidden in a mound, it will repeatedly break wind in the general direction until the worm emerges. This feeding technique may be among the most bizarre of all birds.

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Image: Jim Cumming / 4x6 / Moment Open / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

About This Quiz

You can identify birds, also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs, by their beaked jaws that lack teeth, their ability to lay hard-shelled eggs, their speedy metabolism and a lightweight skeleton. While most fly, many cannot, in part due to their vast size disparity: the smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, measures just two inches long, while the largest, the ostrich, measures up to nine feet. 

What if, in addition to wings, though, they had arms? Would you still be able to discern a bluejay from a Florida scrub? A puffin from a penguin? Would they look less like an egg-laying vertebrate and more like your neighbor wearing a disguise? 

Some of the birds featured in the following quiz are weird enough as they are, boasting bright turquoise claws, painting their own feathers with clay or sleeping with one eye open. What if we added some arms to the mix? 

Since wings originally evolved from forelimbs, a couple of extra limbs wouldn't be a totally random addition. The extinct moa bird, after all, had no wings. Perhaps these arms will let you imagine a different time, when birds belonged to a group of theropod dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era. Or maybe you'll get distracted by imagining how weird it would be if birds had arms today. 

Regardless, let's see how much bird species knowledge you're truly armed with! 

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