birds with long necks

Birds with Long Necks: Top 15 with Pictures

Ever wondered what role the neck serves? Besides holding the head in place, of course.

Depending on the bird’s diet and hunting style, necks adapt to help the bird survive. Not only that but sometimes, they can be used to produce very distinct calls.

In this post, we go over 15 examples of birds with long necks, what special-purpose their necks serve, and how you can identify them. Let’s dig in!

15 Beautiful Birds with Long Necks

In most cases, it’s easy to spot the full length of a bird’s neck. Meanwhile, in hunched stances, things get a little bit tricky.

Let’s take a look:

1.   Greater Flamingo

flamingo with long neck
  • Scientific name: Phoenicopterus roseus
  • Wingspan: 60 in
  • Length: 36-50 in
  • Weight: 8.75 lbs

Perhaps the first image that pops to mind when you say birds with long necks is the iconic flamingo. With pink plumage and incredible balance, the flamingo is surely a head-turner.

Yet, the most fascinating feature about it is that its neck is long and highly flexible, thanks to the 19 vertebrae located there!

Author Note: The flexibility of the flamingo’s neck does more than just give it a nice coat-hanger look. It also helps the bird pick small fish, plankton, and larvae from shallow waters.

Identifying flamingoes, in general, shouldn’t be challenging. They’re most likely the only tall, pink birds with incredibly long necks in the area.

2.   Common Ostrich

Ostrich running
  • Scientific name: Struthio camelus
  • Wingspan: 79 in
  • Length: 82-110 in
  • Weight: 245 lb

Flaunting its 40-in neck, the Ostrich is, hands down, one of the most common birds with a long neck.

Much like the flamingo, the Ostrich has 19 vertebrae in its neck. That’s 12 more vertebrae than a giraffe!

While they’re more than capable of bending their necks that far, it’s not true that Ostriches bury their heads in the sand.

Instead, they can lay it down parallel to the ground. From a distance and with the right angles, it might look like its head is sticking down in the sand. That’s probably how the myth of head burying started going around.

Wild Ostriches aren’t as common as they used to be, but they’re bred on farms all over Europe, America, and Africa.

3.   Australian Emu

emu with long neck
  • Scientific name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
  • Wingspan: 8 in
  • Length: 70 in
  • Weight: 66-121 lb

Emus are sometimes considered the ostriches of Australia. They’re both incredibly large birds, but they don’t belong to the same family.

The flightless Emu bird can only be found in Australia, and it’s known for its iconically long and fuzzy neck.  On the neck, there’s a 12-in inflatable sac that helps amplify the Emu’s call for about 1.2 miles.

Interestingly, the name Dromaius is Greek for “runner.” That’s because Emus are very fast, and they can manage up to 30 mph.

A fun little difference between Emus and Ostriches is the toes. Emus have three, while Ostriches have only two. Yet, Ostriches are faster at 40 mph.

4.   Black Swan

black swan
  • Scientific name: Cygnus atratus
  • Wingspan: 62-78 in
  • Length: 43-55 in
  • Weight: 8-19 lb

Black Swans are so majestic-looking that they can feel a bit imaginary. You might know them from Tchaikovsky’s ballet as being the evil twin to the pious white swan, but that doesn’t do these dark birds justice.

Author Note: When the Black swan is swimming, you’ll mostly see only black plumage on the bird’s face, body, and 60-in neck. Contrast all that with a bright red beak with a single white stripe.

While you can spot the famous swan in many parts all over northern Europe, it’s a more common resident in Australia. As it happens, the Black Swan is Western Australia’s official bird and emblem.

Don’t rush the identification, though. It’s similar to another one of the famous Australian bird, the Magpie Goose.

5.   Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose
  • Scientific name: Anseranas semipalmata
  • Wingspan: 60 in
  • Length: 27-35 in
  • Weight: 4-6 lb

The Magpie Goose is the last of the long-extinct family, Anseranatidae. Thankfully, their population is stable.

When the bird is dipped down in the water, the first things you’ll notice are the long black neck and red beak. That’s why it’s possible to confuse it with the Black Swan, especially from a distance.

However, it’s not all difficult to tell them apart once you spot the goose’s mostly white body. The beak is also not as much of a bold red as the Black Swan.

You can even use geography to help you tell both waders apart. The swan is more common in the western parts, while the magpie prefers the northern and eastern coasts.

6.   Canada Goose

Canada Goose
  • Scientific name: Branta canadensis
  • Wingspan: 50-67 in
  • Length: 30-43 in
  • Weight: 6.5-19 lb

The chunky and noisy Canada Goose can sport a 15-in-long neck. This elongated neck is the main difference between the B. canadensis and the Cackling Goose. Plus, the Cackling Goose has a white-collar at the base of the neck that’s missing on the Canada Goose.

You might find the Canada Goose in parts of Europe as it was introduced there from North America.

Spotting them in a flock is really easy since they tend to be a bit of a nuisance in large groups, especially in open grasslands.

If you get close enough to one, you’ll be able to notice the white band-like upside-down stripe on its check. That’s the main identifiable feature.

7.   Green Heron

green heron
  • Scientific name: Butorides virescens
  • Wingspan: 25.2-26.8 in
  • Length: 16-18 in
  • Weight: 8.5 oz

Most herons have long necks, but what’s particularly unique is that they usually adopt a stance that makes them seem virtually without a neck.

If you compare that to a heron extending its neck fully during hunting or drinking, odds are that you’d be surprised that they’re even the same bird!

This neck stretching can quickly turn the heron from an adorably stocky bird to a fierce predator hunting for prey.

Author Note: All in all, Green Herons are very abundant in North and Central America. Whether you’re around freshwater or saltwater, keep your eyes out for them during the summer, and you’ll probably spot one, hopefully with its neck extended!

8.   Great Egret

great egret
  • Scientific name: Ardea alba
  • Wingspan: 55 in
  • Length: 32 in
  • Weight: 2.2 lb

Egrets are large all-white herons with a sharp yellow beak and impressively long S-shaped necks.

As waders, they use these long necks to deliver a death blow to their fish prey and swallow them whole.

The Great Egrets is abundant in wetlands all over the world, especially in the south. They only tend to travel up north during the summers.

In North America, they range in Maine, Texas, and Florida, but their population is declining in Connecticut.

They tolerate both fresh and saltwater, so you might find them in marshes, streams, ponds, lakes, and even flat mud. However, they tend to prefer uninhabited shores.

9.   Anhinga

  • Scientific name: Anhinga anhinga
  • Wingspan: 44.4 in
  • Length: 35 in
  • Weight: 38.8 oz

Slender and graceful, the anhinga is an efficient waterbird that lives year-round in Florida and is commonly referred to as the water turkey.

The word “Anhinga” means “snake bird” in the Brazilian Tupi, and if you look at the bird from head to neck, it does look a bit like a green snake.

It uses its strong neck muscles and pointed beak as a spear to dart its fish prey from shallow waters.

The Australian variety (Anhinga novaehollandiae) has the same profile but in a black and white color palette.

10.    Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard
  • Scientific name: Ardeotis kori
  • Wingspan: 24-30 in
  • Length: 41-50 in
  • Weight: 12-42 lb

The kori’s neck isn’t only long, but it’s also very thick. In fact, the entire body is so dense that it’s considered one of Africa’s largest flying birds. It mostly stays on the ground and resorts to flight only in cases of danger.

With its ver­mic­u­lated gray neck, the kori sucks out the water instead of scooping it up like the majority of other birds.

During the breeding season, the neck feathers are erected so that the male can proceed with the courtship dance.

The Kori Bustard prefers living in savannas, grasslands, and even deserts, but for the most part, they tend to be found near water sources.

11.   Sandhill Cranes

flock of sandhill cranes o
  • Scientific name: Antigone canadensis
  • Wingspan: 80 in
  • Length: 37 in
  • Weight: 7-11 lb

Sandhill Cranes are mostly gray with rust-like spots that fade a bit into the long neck plumage. The neck seems thicker at the base and narrows significantly as it gets to the head.

Within the long neck, cranes have a coiling trachea that produces a unique rolling trumpet-like call.

Top Tip: Another prominent feature in the crane’s profile is the red spot right above the eye. This crown can only be seen on adult birds.

The Sandhill Cranes are almost exclusive to North America. A common sighting spot is the gathering of cranes among many other species on the Platter River in Nebraska during the early spring.

12.   Marabou Stork

Marabou Stork
  • Scientific name: Leptoptilos crumeniferus
  • Wingspan: 86-110 in
  • Length: 47-51 in
  • Weight: 10-17 lb

The Marabou is a large scavenger with an exceptionally weird-looking neck. Its neck is bared down to a pinkish tone, and at the base, there’s a large gular sac that the bird inflates to show dominance.

When it hunches back, the gular sac looks like an extension of the bare neck, making it look even longer than it actually is.

It might not look like the most kept bird, but for a while, the tail feathers (called the Marabou down) were used as ornaments for headwear.

13.   Crying Bird (Florida Limpkin)

Florida Limpkin
  • Scientific name: Aramus guarauna
  • Wingspan: 42 in
  • Length: 28 in
  • Weight: 46 oz

The crying bird is also referred to as the carrao, courlan, and Limpkin. Its plumage pattern looks a lot like a heron with white streaks all over its head and neck.

The male birds have such an unusually mournful cry that sounds like wailing. It can be quite unsettling, especially during the night.

In the U.S, you can only see the Limpkin in Florida and southern Georgia. Instead, they mostly spread over Central and South America.

So, the next time you’re in peninsular Florida and hear a distant cry, keep your eyes out for the limpkin with its streaked neck!

14.   Southern Cassowary

Photo by Imogen Warren
  • Scientific name: Casuarius casuarius
  • Wingspan: 60-80 in
  • Length: 5.8 ft
  • Weight: 120-167 lb

The cassowary’s bright blue neck is longer than 7 in, and it holds two pink wattles that hang downward.

On the rear side of the neck, the skin is a bold red. All these are sure-fire ways of identifying the Southern Cassowary. Overall, they look like a true dinosaur descendant.

They might not look like it with their bulky bodies and dense plumage, but they’re actually good swimmers!

Top Tip: The blue-necked bird can be spotted in northern Queensland, New Guinea, and the eastern parts of Indonesia.

However, the cassowary’s booing call is very loud, and odds are you’ll hear it long before you spot the bird. They often stamp their feet along with the echoing call. Once the bird is aware of you, they’ll stand tall and extend their necks to appear larger.

Be careful, though. Their claw attacks can be quite dangerous, and they won’t shy away from scaring an intruder away.

15.   Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture
  • Scientific name: Gyps fulvus
  • Wingspan: 95-110 in
  • Length: 37-47 in
  • Weight: 13-24 lb

You might not be able to tell at first glance, but the Griffon Vulture has quite the long neck under all that ruff.

Besides giving it a very intimidating silhouette, the long neck allows the vulture to reach deep into the prey’s carcass without snagging or struggling.

As interesting as that sounds, the vulture has even more unique characteristics going on in his favor.

For instance, they have an incredibly aerodynamic bullet-shaped body. To shed extra weight, a lot of their bones are pneumatized.

Plus, their respiratory systems are highly adapted to make the most out of the least amount of oxygen available. As a result, they can fly up to a whopping 37,000 ft into the air!

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap on our list of birds with long necks. By now, we hope it’s a bit easier to identify birds and understand how their anatomy serves their lifestyle!


Why do birds need long necks?

It is all to do with food. Whether it is to reach up high or low, the neck helps the bird survive.

Why do birds have S shaped necks?

Birds like the Great Egret has a long neck so it can stab it into the water to catch fish but can also hold in close to the body when it is flying.

Do all birds have necks?

Yes and reasonably long too. Some birds hold their necks so close to their body that it looks like they have no neck. The Green Heron is a great example of this.

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