birds with white heads

Birds with White Heads: 12 Most Common with Pictures

White-feathered birds are a sight to behold. They’re so eye-catching that they can be seen from miles away. Plus, there’s just something so elegant and pure about them!

To show our appreciation for these white-feathered creatures, we’ve compiled a list of the most beautiful birds with white heads. Some are common and can be found in almost every part of the US, while others are endemic to certain parts of the globe.

From the powerful Bald Eagle to the rare and quaint Tanimbar Corellas, feast your eyes on these magnificent white-headed birds!

Top 12 Most Common Birds with White Heads

1.  Bald Eagle

bald eagle soaring
  • Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Length: 34 to 36 inches 
  • Weight: 105 to 230 ounces
  • Wingspan: 70 to 90 inches

Let’s start this list off strong with perhaps the most popular bird of prey in the US: Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagles are crowned the national bird and symbol of the United States due to their beauty, courage, and strength. 

Author Note: Although they were removed from the threatened and endangered list in 2007, they still remain one of the most protected birds in the country.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibit anyone without permission from harming, hunting, or taking these birds, including their parts (feathers, eggs, nests, etc.).

The Bald Eagle has a dark brown body, dark brown wings, and a white head and tail. Its legs and bills are yellow-orange in color.

Immatures look nothing like their adult counterparts with mostly dark heads and tails. They attain their adult plumage at around five or so years.

Bald Eagles are one of the biggest eagles that exist today. Adult male Bald Eagles have a wingspan that extends up to 6.6 feet, while females have a wingspan of up to 8 feet.

2.  Whitehead

Whitehead bird
  • Scientific name: Mohoua albicilla
  • Length: 5 to 5.9 inches 
  • Weight: 0.5 to 0.7 ounces
  • Wingspan: 6 to 7 inches

Whiteheads are a small species of songbirds endemic to the North Island of New Zealand. As the name implies, these birds have whiteheads. Their wings and tails are light brown in color.

In New Zealand, Whiteheads are often spotted in small groups in high trees. When it’s time to feed, you’ll catch them looking for insects and spiders in tree trunks and leaves. They’d sometimes even hang upside down to catch their meal!

Whiteheads are one of the few hosts for the parasitic Long-tailed Cuckoo. Instead of making her own nest, she’d lay her eggs in a Whitehead’s nest, fooling the bird into incubating the egg and raising the Long-tailed Koel chicks as her own.

3.  Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
  • Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator
  • Length: 55 to 62 inches
  • Weight: 335 to 490 ounces (20 to 30 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 84 to 90 inches

Trumpeter Swans aren’t only the heaviest living birds capable of flight but also the largest and longest extant species of waterfowl.

Adult Trumpeters measure anywhere between 4’6″ to 5’5″ long, but some exceed 6′ in length. They weigh between 15 to 30 pounds depending on the food access, age, and sex.

Trumpeter Swans are often mistaken for Mute Swans due to their almost similar build and appearance. The most striking difference between the two, however, is that Trumpeter Swans have black bills whereas Mute Swans have orange-red bills.

These swans have overall white plumage, gray-pink legs, an upright posture, and a long neck.

Author Note: Trumpeter Swans were once driven to extinction early in the 20th century, when fewer than 70 individuals were known to exist.

But several years ago, scientists discovered a Pacific population of a couple thousand near the Copper River in Alaska with the help of aerial surveys. They were then carefully reintroduced and restored to other parts of the US.

Today, over 30,000 reside in North America.

4.  Great Egret

great egret flying
  • Scientific name: Ardea alba
  • Length: 37 to 40.9 inches
  • Weight: 35.3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 51.6 to 57.1 inches

The majestic Great Egret goes by many names: the Common Egret, the Great White Egret, the Large Egret, and even the Great White Heron.

This large, long-necked egret is covered in white features, from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. Its bill is yellowish-orange and its legs black.

Like most egrets, the Great Egret mainly feeds on fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals. It takes on a slow-and-steady approach when hunting; it waits for unsuspecting prey to pass by, still as a statue, then, with startling speed, it strikes with a quick jab of its bill.

These widespread species live in both fresh and saltwater habitats, such as shallow coastal lagoons, mudflats, ponds, and league marshes. It nests in shrubs or trees near water.

5.  Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Length: 21 to 25.5 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 70 ounces
  • Wingspan: 48 to 59 inches

This list wouldn’t be complete without the beautiful, ever-revered Snowy Owl!

The Snowy Owl, also known as the White Owl or the Arctic Owl, is a species of owl native to the Arctic regions of the Palearctic and North America.

It’s one of Alaska’s deadliest and unforgiving predators, easily taking on animals three times its size. In fact, it’s the only known flying animal that attacks Arctic wolves! It’ll even dive-bomb humans if they feel threatened enough.

The Snowy Owl is about as large as the Great Horned Owl, making them the third biggest owl species in the world. It has smoothly rounded white heads and varying amounts of black or brown markings on its wings and body. Females are more on the salt-and-pepper side, while males are paler and whiter.

This species is rarely seen outside the Arctic on the open tundra, but groups can be found in areas of the northern US, southern Canada, and parts of Asia and Europe—mostly during the winter season.

6.  White Cockatoo

White Cockatoo
  • Scientific name: Cacatua alba
  • Length: 14 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 17 to 22 ounces 
  • Wingspan: 35 to 40.5 inches

With their all-white plumage, showy white crests, and dark gray beaks, White Cockatoos–also known as Umbrella Cockatoos—are one of the more recognizable species of cockatoos.

They look strikingly similar to Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, except instead of the white crests, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have sulfur-yellow crests.

Author Note: White Cockatoos can only be found in the tropical rainforests of Indonesia, specifically in the islands of Kasiruta, Bacan, Halmahera, Ternate, Tidore, and Mattioli. They’re especially common around rivers, edges of cleanings, and woodlands.

These birds are extremely social, often gathering in groups of between 15 to 50. However, they don’t usually establish close connections with each other outside of mating season.

White Cockatoos typically feed on aromatic fruit, such as durian, rambutan, langsat, and papaya, as well as various nuts and seeds. On occasion, they’d indulge in reptiles and insects, like skinks and crickets.

7.  Snow Goose

snow goose
  • Scientific name: Anser caerulescens
  • Length: 25 to 27 inches
  • Weight: 85 to 91 ounces
  • Wingspan: 58 to 59 inches

Native to North America, Snow Geese are predominantly white geese with black wingtips. The dark wingtips can only be noticed in flight, as they’re tucked in the goose’s body when on the ground.

Dubbed the Harbingers of the Changing Seasons, Snow Geese fly south in winter in huge, neat formations that appear like the letter “V.” These honking flocks of Snow Geese are known as “Snowstorm.” They seek refuge in bays, fields, coastal marshes, and wet grassland.

Unlike some geese that occasionally eat fish and insects, Snow Geese are entirely herbivorous. Their diet mainly consists of grains, grasses, horsetails, rushes, and willows. 

8.  Tanimbar Corella

Tanimbar Corella
  • Scientific name: Cacatua goffiniana
  • Length: 11 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 9.8 to 10 ounces
  • Wingspan: 22 to 24 inches

Tanimbar Corellas, also known as Goffin’s Cockatoos, are the rarest and most endangered species of cockatoo. They’re so rare that there’s not much known about their breeding behavior in the wild.

On top of being the smallest living white cockatoo species, Tanimbar Corellas are also one of the shorter-lived cockatoos, only living up to 30 years in captivity. To put that into perspective, most cockatoos live up to 40 to 60 years. Some species, like Sulfur-crested Cockatoos, live up to 80 years.

Tanimbar Corellas are endemic to Indonesia’s Tanimbar Islands, specifically in Selaru, Yamdena, and Larat.

Here’s an interesting fact about this rare species: Tanimbar Corellas might actually be capable of developing reading comprehension skills!

This was proven In a 2020 study, when Ellie, a female Tanimbar Corella, was able to match spoken words and written words with images with a jaw-dropping 94% accuracy.

9.  White-tailed Tropicbird

White-tailed Tropicbirds
  • Scientific name: Phaethon lepturus
  • Length: 25 to 26 inches
  • Weight: 10 to 11.6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 35 to 37 inches

White-tailed Tropicbirds are the smallest members of the tropicbird family and the order Phaethontiformes.

They’re commonly found in the western Pacific, the Indian Oceans, the tropical Atlantic, and some parts of the Caribbean Islands. In the United States, they’re mostly seen in Florida (around the Dry Tortugas) and Hawaii.

With their predominantly white plumage, black eye-masks, and bond black bands on their inner wings, these handsome creatures earned the title of Bermuda’s national bird.

These mostly-white birds mainly feed on fish. They especially like flying fish, which can easily be caught in tropical waters. They won’t say no to the occasional snail, crab, or squid, either. 

10.  Masked Booby

masked booby
  • Scientific name: Sula dactylatra
  • Length: 29 to 33 inches
  • Weight: 59 to 60 ounces
  • Wingspan: 63 to 67 inches

Masked Boobies, also known as Masked Gannets or Blue-faced Boobies, are large seabirds that mainly reside in tropical waters.

Top Tip: The name “booby” comes from the Spanish word “bobo,” meaning fool. They got this name because of their ungainly courtship dances, which many describe as “foolish.”

Adult Masked Boobies have mostly white plumage, a dark “mask” at the base of their shout yellow bills, a black tail, and a black trailing edge on their wings. Immatures have a distinctly different appearance with their brown head, upper parts, and neck.

These gannets are rarely seen from the mainland. They’re instead found on islands that range between 30°N and 30°S.

They can sometimes be spotted in some US Gulf states like Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, but this is extremely rare.

11.  American White Ibis

American White Ibis
  • Scientific name: Eudocimus albus
  • Length: 22 to 27 inches
  • Weight: 26.5 to 37 ounces
  • Wingspan: 35 to 41 inches

Found throughout most of Florida and Virginia, American White Ibises are long-legged wetland birds that gather in groups in freshwater marshes,  flooded pastures, swamps, mangroves, and coastal estuaries.

As the name suggests, American White Ibises are all-white except for their black wings, reddish-pink legs, and red bills.

These birds are highly migratory; they change locations nearly every year in hopes of finding better food sources.

Unlike most birds, female White Ibises are smaller than males. Females weigh around 10 or so ounces less than males. They also have shorter wings and smaller bills.

12.   White Tern

white tern
  • Scientific name: Gygis alba
  • Length: 11 to 13 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 to 5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 30 to 34 inches

White Terns, also known as Angel Terns, Fairy Terns, White Noddies, or Manu-o-Kū in Hawaii, are all-white birds with black bills, black feet, and black “eyeliner” surrounding their eyes.

These immaculate white birds are piscivores, meaning they mostly eat small fish, squid, and crustaceans.

To eat, they’d either dip their beak beneath the water’s surface or catch flying fish from the air. For this reason, White Terns are often seen near groups of predatory fish and dolphins because they drive their prey toward the surface.

White Terns are among the most graceful flyers in the bird kingdom. They easily fly across waves and can sustain themselves in flight for extended periods. It’s no wonder, then, that White Terns are Honolulu, Hawaii’s official bird.

Conclusion

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of birds with white heads out there, but only 12 are worthy enough to make it to this list! The birds above are some of the most magnificent creatures the world has to offer, both in appearance and behavior.

We hope you enjoyed our guide on birds with white heads.

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