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12 Birds With Long Necks (with Photos)

One body shape we may not be as used to seeing in our day to day life is birds with long necks. Usually, these long necks go hand-in-hand with an overall larger sized body, and long legs. A long neck can help keep an eye out for predators that like to sneak up through low vegetation. It can also be an advantage to help birds spear fish, or reach sediment when wading through shallow water. Let’s look at 12 common birds with long necks and where you can find them. 

12 Birds with long necks

1. Ostrich

Male common ostrich standing
Male common ostrich Bernard DUPONT via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Struthio camelus
  • Size: 6.9-9 feet

The ostrich is a bird that’s native to Africa. Their natural habitat includes savannas, grasslands, woodlands, and deserts. They prefer open areas with sparse vegetation where they can see predators approaching from afar. It’s the world’s largest and fastest bird, capable of speeds of up to 70 km/h. Their main predators are lions, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs. Their tall stature and long neck helps them see far out above the grasses, and hopefully spot an approaching predator with enough time to run away.

Ostriches eat roots, shrubs, fruit, flowers, leaves, and seeds, but they also eat insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars during certain seasons of the year. 

2. Emu

An emu | Image by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay
  • Scientific Name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
  • Size: 5.7 feet

Emus are large flightless birds with long necks. They are similar to the ostrich, but live on the continent of Australia. These birds have shaggy grayish-brown feathers that extend part-way up the neck. They use their necks to scan their surroundings, which helps them avoid their main predator, the dingo.

They’re most active during the day, usually spending their time searching for food, resting, or preening their feathers. From December to January, male emus will start attracting females by doing their courtship dances. Females lay 5 to 24 eggs per season, which they lay on nests that are made up of dried grasses.

3. Goliath Heron

Goliath heron
Goliath heron foraging
  • Scientific Name: Ardea goliath
  • Size: 3-5 feet

With a wingspan of about 7.7 feet and standing 5 feet tall, the Goliath heron is the largest of all herons. They’re African in origin, and can also be found in Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of India. During the non-breeding season, these large herons are solitary birds, but they can be seen with other birds of the same species during the breeding season.

They have long necks that allow them to catch and eat fish and amphibians. These birds hunt by wading through water, their long necks stretched out in front of them, looking for prey. When they come across something interesting, they stab it with their sharp bills to catch it.

4. Great Egret

Great egret flying over water
Great Egret
  • Scientific Name: Ardea alba
  • Size: 3.28 ft

The Great Egret, also known as the Common Egret or the Great White Heron, is a large wading bird that is widespread around the world, including most of North America. You can find them in various shallow water habitats, such as lakes, ponds, tidal flats and marshes. With a wingspan of up to five feet, Great Egrets are one of the world’s largest herons.

They have long dark legs and a neck longer than its body’s length. During flight, they fold their neck back against their body. They usually hunt for amphibians, snakes, crayfish, and aquatic insects in their natural habitat. Unfortunately they were once hunted for their beautiful white “aigrettes”, wispy plumes that grow during the breeding season.

5. Anhinga

Anhinga drying its feathers \ image by:
  • Scientific Name: Anhinga anhinga
  • Size: 3 feet

Anhingas are a type of aquatic bird found in the eastern United States down through South America. They’re most commonly found in shallow, sheltered freshwater environments with trees, tall grasses and shrubs, such as mangroves, wetlands, swamps, and lagoons.

These birds are distinguished by their long, thin snake-like necks. They often swim through the water with only their long neck showing above the surface, giving them the nickname “snake bird”. They have a second nickname, “water turkey”, due to their long turkey-like tail feathers. Anhingas can reach a length of 3 feet and a wingspan of 3.7 feet.

Their main diet is fish, which they catch by slowly swimming underwater, then stabbing them with their sharp bill. Despite all the time they spend in the water, they do not have waterproof feathers like ducks. After they are done swimming, they will stand on the shore and stretch out both wings to dry. 

6. Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Trumpeter Swan
  • Scientific Name: Cygnus buccinator
  • Size: 4.6-5.5 feet

Trumpeter swans are large, graceful birds native to North America. They breed in Alaska, parts of Canada and the Great Lakes, then move to coastal British Columbia and scattered spots in the U.S. They are North America’s largest native waterfowl, reaching over 25 pounds. Due to their large size, they need at least 100 yards of open water to get airborne. These large swans live near wetlands and will nest and lay eggs near water. They actually use their webbed feet to cover their eggs and aid in incubation.

Trumpeter swans are all white with black feet and a black beak. Nearly extinct by the early 20th century, they are slowly making a comeback. Their diet includes aquatic plants and insects, and in the winter they include more terrestrial foods like berries, grasses, grains and tubers.

7. Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill crane foraging
Sandhill crane foraging
  • Scientific Name: Antigone canadensis
  • Size: 4 feet

Sandhill cranes are large birds that resemble herons but with bulkier bodies. They have gray feathers, sometimes heavily streaked with rusty brown, and a red face patch.  Most of their population lives in North America, where they breed in pockets from the northern U.S. up through Canada to the Arctic. They winter in parts of California, Texas, Mexico, Florida and other spotty locations. As they migrate between these locations, you can hear them flying overhead in large groups, making loud trumpeting calls. 

The Sandhill Crane is named after the Sandhills region of Nebraska. This area is an important stop-over site for many migrating birds, including these cranes that gather there in large number on the way between their winter and summer grounds.

Nests are made of sticks and lined with grasses or other nearby material, and they’re placed in open and wet grasslands. They tend to wait several years before they begin breeding (between 2-7) and then mate for life. 

8. Southern Cassowary

Southern cassowary in grassfield
Southern cassowary in grassfield | image by Graham Winterflood via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Casuarius casuarius
  • Size: 5.8 feet

The Southern Cassowary is a large, flightless bird that lives in rainforest areas of Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. They are quite a unique looking bird, with their thick powerful legs, bulky body of bristly black feathers, a blue face, two red neck-wattles and a large hard casque on top of their head. Foraging on the forest floor, they eat fungi, insects, small vertebrates and fruits, even those that are too toxic for other animals.

They are viewed as being rather dangerous birds to be near. Their powerful legs can help them jump quite high and deliver powerful kicks. Each foot has three toes with large sharpe claws. 

9. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Egretta caerulea
  • Size: 2.5 feet

The Little Blue Heron is a small, graceful wading bird that you can find from North America to Central and South America. In the U.S. the best place to spot them year-round is along the Gulf Coast and southeast coast. They have a distinct appearance, with a long, slender bill and a long neck. The Little Blue Heron has a blue-gray body with a rich purple-maroon head and neck, and greenish legs. Juveniles are white all over until they transition into their adult plumage. This affords them extra protection in their first year as they are able to blend in and be more accepted by other groups of white herons and egrets.

When this bird is at rest or in flight, its long neck is held in an S-shaped position. They‘re found in bodies of water ranging from ponds to lakes, and marshes to swamps, where they hunt for fish, frogs, snakes, and other small prey. The long neck of the Little Blue Heron allows it to spot prey and easily stab it with its spear-like bill.

10. White Ibis

white ibis
Image: (West Palm Beach, Florida)
  • Scientific Name: Eudocimus albus
  • Size: 2.3 feet

The white ibis is a bird that lives along the coast of Mexico, Central America, the Carribean, and the U.S. Gulf and southeast coast. They have a long neck and pink curved beak that they use to probe for food in mud and sediment. They hunt for prey in shallow waters 10 to 15 cm deep, and their diet consists of insects, worms, crayfish, lizards, snails, crabs and other small creatures.

The white ibis has a distinct appearance that makes it easy to identify, with white coloration throughout their bodies and black-edged wings. These birds are very social and are almost always found in groups when feeding, flying or nesting. At night, the group roosts together in trees.

11. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored heron foraging
Tricolored heron foraging | image by Andrew Cannizzaro via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Egretta tricolor
  • Size: 1.8-2.5 feet

The Tricolored Heron is a medium-sized, long-necked bird native to North America, as well as the coasts of Central and South America. When these birds are at rest or flying, their necks can be seen pulled back in a curved position. Their bodies are blue-gray with purplish highlights, with a white belly and a white stripe down the middle of their neck. 

These herons are found in marshes, swamps, and mudflats, where they feed on small fish, crustaceans, and insects caught while wading in shallow water. Tricolored herons are mostly solitary creatures with strong territorial instincts.

12. Greater Flamingo

Greater flamingo in calm water
A greater flamingo in calm water | image by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus roseus
  • Size: 4-5 feet

Greater Flamingos are large, long-legged birds found in the Middle East, Africa, parts of Europe and Asia. They’re the tallest species of flamingo, standing 4 to 5 feet tall and weighing up to 7.7 pounds. Their natural habitat consists primarily of shallow freshwater or saltwater lakes and muddy beaches.

Their necks have 19 cervical vertebrae, allowing them to reach deep into the water to eat food such as algae and crustaceans. With legs that long, they need an equally long neck to reach the water! They also have filter feeders on their beaks, which aid in the removal of small organisms from the water.

These long-necked birds’ colors are also obtained from carotenoid pigments acquired from feeding on creatures such as brine shrimp.