Dangerous Birds That Will Have You Fearing Anything With Feathers

Alfred Hitchcock was really onto something when he made a horror film about birds. These feathery animals are the closest evolutionary relatives to dinosaurs, and their genetic disposition for violence is pretty clear in certain species.

These are some of the world’s most dangerous birds, and I personally hope to never encounter any of them (and neither should you).

Great Horned Owls

Many owl species have been known to attack animals who threaten their young, and great horned owls are known for their powerful claw grip, which rivals the bite of a large guard dog. There have been reports of them swooping in and attacking people’s faces and heads in Washington and Oregon.

great horned owl
Photo Credit: Prisma Bildagentur / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Prisma Bildagentur / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Red-Tailed Hawks

Hawks are some of the most intelligent birds in the world and also some of the most dangerous. They may attack humans who threaten their nests with quick, direct swoops with their talons out. When it comes to their food, they literally smash their prey to death.

Red-tailed Hawk flying above
Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Emus

These flightless birds are stout-bodied with long legs and can run at a speed of 30 mph. The birds’ toe-claws are able to slash and kill a wide variety of predators and prey alike. While they don’t tend to kill humans, they are known for injuring them—there were 100 emu-related human injuries in 2009 alone.

Emu
Photo Credit: DEA / P. JACCOD / De Agostini via Getty Images
Photo Credit: DEA / P. JACCOD / De Agostini via Getty Images

Hooded Pitohuis

This colorful songbird may seem like an absolute delight, but natives of Papua New Guinea know to keep their distance. The hooded pitohui is actually one of the only known poisonous birds in the world, and the toxins in its feathers can cause numbing and burning sensations.

orange and black pitohui
Photo Credit: Imgur / TheBurningEmu
Photo Credit: Imgur / TheBurningEmu

Harpy Eagles

The harpy eagle is the most powerful bird of prey in the world. While it used to be found from Mexico to Ecuador, it now inhabits areas in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana, living in large undisturbed tracts of lowland tropical forest. The one pictured here is a female and has a 7-foot wingspan, weighs about 16 pounds, and eats sloths and monkeys.

A Harpy Eagle, the most powerful bird of prey in the world.
Photo Credit: Tim Chapman / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tim Chapman / Getty Images

Mute Swans

Don’t let their beauty and grace fool you: mute swans, which are found across northern Europe, can be extremely vicious when they feel their nests are threatened. They can cause serious injuries to humans when they attack by striking their opponent with their large, powerful wings.

Male mute swan on water
Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Getty Images

Snowy Owls

The most northern predatory bird, snowy owls are extremely intelligent birds. When attacking, they aim for their target’s weak spots and exposed areas; if their target is a human, they go for the eyes first.

Female Snowy Owl Perched in Tree
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Crowned Eagle

Known as the “leopard of the air,” the crowned eagle is a fierce predator indigenous to Africa. Its diet mainly consists of mammals, with their primary prey being small deer-like animals and small primates like monkeys. There are also rumors of children’s skulls being found in their nests.

Crowned Eagle
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ostriches

Indigenous to the plains of Africa, ostriches are extremely fast and can run at a pace of 45 mph. Their feet are shaped similarly to hooves, and these birds possess the ability to kill large predators, such as lions, with a strong kick.

ostrich in grassy field
Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Great Northern Loons

Loons live in the boreal forests of Canada as well as the Arctic tundras. While they might not seem intimidating, weighing only 8–12 pounds, their beaks are razor-sharp for spearing fish and, on a few occasions, humans.

loon swimming
Photo Credit: ARTERRA / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ARTERRA / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Marabou Storks

These birds just look villainous. Marabou storks stand over 5 feet tall and have a wingspan over 10 feet wide; their fleshy, featherless head is often covered in the blood of their prey, which they pick apart with their 14-inch bill. These storks, native to sub-Saharan Africa, have been known to lash out and kill children who have approached them.

Marabou storks tussling over food scraps with dead flamingo in the background and ibis beneath
Photo Credit: Auscape / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Auscape / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Lammergeiers (Bearded Vultures)

These birds definitely look evil, and the fact they eat bones just adds to their image. These birds will drop bones from great heights to break them open so they can eat the marrow, and they also have the ability to dissolve bones in their stomach within 24 hours. The biggest threat they pose to humans is that they might drop something on your head.

Bearded Vulture, Lammergeyer, Gypaetus barbatus, adult swallowing leg bone including hoof Spanish Pyrenees
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Geese

Geese actually have keen hearing and excellent eyesight as well as an aggressive nature. Much like swans, they attack by flapping their strong wings at opponents, with some species also snapping their beaks. Geese are so aggressive that a police station in Xinjiang, China, has used them to replace guard dogs.

geese in field
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Australian Magpies

Though small, the Australian magpie is a famously irritable bird that loves to pick fights (especially when they have a nest of babies). There are countless incidents where they have attacked humans—often unprovoked. In fact, some Australian cyclists have spikes on their helmets to help deter the violent magpies from attacking them.

An Australian native Magpie feeds on seed in a suburban back yard
Photo Credit: Tracey Nearmy / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tracey Nearmy / Getty Images

Golden Eagles

Just about everyone knows that eagles are fierce predators, and their reputation is well-deserved. They are able to take on prey that is substantially heavier than themselves, including goats. They don’t often attack humans, but I wouldn’t try to test the odds.

Golden Eagle
Photo Credit: Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Antarctic Giant Petrels

The Giant Southern Petrel has a 7-foot wingspan that allows it to easily stalk and terrorize penguin populations across Antarctica. These birds love to brutally butcher their prey before eating it. Luckily, these birds aren’t much of a threat to humans since they inhabit remote areas of Antarctica.

Antarctic Giant Petrel eating dead animal
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

Cassowaries

This bird literally haunts my nightmares. Living in areas across Australia and Papua New Guinea, the cassowary can run at a speed of 31 mph and has been known to use its sharp talons to disembowel humans.

Southern Cassowary.
Photo Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Herring Gulls

Native to coastal areas of Scandinavia, herring gulls are the more threatening relative of the common seagull. They’re known to aggressively swoop in to steal food from humans, and they aren’t afraid to inflict injuries in the process using their beaks.

herring gull standing
Photo Credit: Marka / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Marka / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Great White Pelicans

The great white pelican lives in coastal areas of Europe and Asia and has an uncanny ability to swallow its prey, including fish and smaller birds, whole while they’re still alive. They even drown and eat gulls, their close evolutionary relatives. Luckily, most humans can’t fit in their large beaks, keeping us safe from their carnage.

Great White Pelican flying over water
Photo Credit: Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ducks

While these birds pose no real threat to humans, a bizarre and terrifying fact about them is that they can develop into cannibals if they feel crowded, stressed, or merely bored.

A female mallard duck in pond
Photo Credit: Future via Getty Images / PhotoPlus Magazine / Future via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Future via Getty Images / PhotoPlus Magazine / Future via Getty Images