12 Birds You Can Only See in One Place on Earth

Talk about a rare bird! You'll only be able to see these stunning birds in very specific locations around the globe.

wilson's bird of paradise competing to attract a female by dancing in the gloom of the forest floor

Wilson’s Bird of Paradise

These striking birds can only be found on the islands of Waigeo and Batanta in Indonesia. Their bright hues and the curlicue tails are a sight to behold. Even the birds’ inner mouths are a high-pigment green. Some of the colors aren’t exactly what they seem. Look closely and you can see that the brilliant blue on the males’ heads is actually bare skin, not feathers.

Galapagos or Darwin's Finch (Geospizinae), Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador
Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

Darwin’s Finches

One of the Galapagos islands’ biggest claims to fame is that Charles Darwin discovered that animals on individual islands were distinct from similar species in other parts of the Galapagos—namely Darwin’s finches—leading to his theory of evolution. These birds are actually at least 13 separate species. But they come from one common South or Central American ancestor and are unique to the Galapagos Islands.

Portrait of Waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) on Espanola Island, Galapagos National park, Ecuador. The waved albatross breeds primarily on Espanola Island.
Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

Waved Albatross

Finches aren’t the only unique fowl in the Galapagos. Also known as the Galapagos albatross, this bird is found almost exclusively on the Galapagos Islands. Every now and then a pair is spotted on Isla de la Plata off the coast of Ecuador. These graceful birds have a massive wingspan of eight feet, which they mainly use to glide, rarely flapping their wings. The waved albatross has the impressive ability of staying at sea for years on end without coming back to land.

Lidth's Jay (Garrulus lidthi) in Japan

Amami Jay

Also called the Lidth’s jay, these jewel-tone birds can only be found in the Amami Islands of southern Japan. The omnivores eat bugs, small birds and reptiles, along with fruits and seeds. Acorns are their favorite food—they can hold six in their mouths at a time.

Galapagos Penguin
Alfie Photography/Shutterstock

Galapagos Penguin

These penguins aren’t just unique because you’ll only find them in the Galapagos. You also won’t find another penguin this close to the Equator. Their habitat is way warmer than the Antarctic weather you’d associate penguins with. But like their sister species, Galapagos penguins swim instead of fly, and they usually mate for life.

Okinawa Woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii) in North Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa Woodpecker

These reddish-brown woodpeckers have been critically endangered since the 1930s. This is mostly because of deforestation in their habitat on the island of Okinawa in Japan. Like their relatives, these woodpeckers hammer away at trees’ soft wood to find bugs to eat. They also nosh on fruits and seeds.

Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis)
G. Boldhaus/Shutterstock

Galapagos Hawk

As their name suggests, the Galapagos hawk can only be found in the Galapagos Islands. Even there, these raptors are rare, with a mere 150 breeding pairs estimated to be left. The males are usually monogamous and help incubate eggs and raise the chicks. Females sometimes mate with several males during a single mating season.

Red bird of paradise
Dan Callister/Shutterstock

Red Bird of Paradise

Like most other species in their family, these birds are only found in a handful of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands. Unlike the female pictured here, the male red birds of paradise have emerald-green faces and crimson tails.

An African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus with large webbed foot
Harold Stiver/Shutterstock

Madagascar Jacana

No surprise here: This bird can only be found in Madagascar—namely around freshwater areas near the western and northern shores. The Madagascar jacana’s long toes disperse their weight. They can walk across lily pads and other plants floating in the water.

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie (Urocissa ornata) Sinharaja National Park, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Also known as the Ceylon magpie, these vivid birds are found (fittingly) only in Sri Lanka, usually in wet zones in the center and southwest. The species is vulnerable. The birds are legally protected in their home country, where they call a handful of national parks “home.”

Lava heron, Galapagos islands

Lava Heron

The jury is still out on whether the lava heron is a distinct species from their relative, the striated heron. But one thing is for sure: You’ll only find these particular little guys in the Galapagos. They get their name from their dark color that helps them blend in with lava rocks along the shore. Their grey legs turn bright orange during mating season.

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis) in Palawan Island, Philippines

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant

You’ll only find these beauties on the Philippine island of Palawan. The males’ impressive plumes are hard to miss. Not only do their vibrant feathers help them catch the eyes of mates, but the males have a ritual of offering females food in hopes of impressing them.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.