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12 Birds With Long Tails (with Photos)

Most birds we are used to seeing on a regular basis all have medium sized tails. Long enough to help them in flight, but not so long that they get in the way. However there are birds out there with tails that are unusually or even impressively long. We take a look at 12 birds with long tails, and what they might use these impressive tails for. 

12 Birds with long tails

1. Scissor-tailed flycatcher

scissor-tailed flycatcher
Image by Israel Alapag from Pixabay
  • Scientific Name: Tyrannus forficatus
  • Size: up to 15 inches

The Scissor-tailed flycatcher is a small North American bird with a very long tail. Both males and females have a gray head, dark wings, and pinkish-orange wash on their sides and a small black beak.

They can be found in Texas and some of the surrounding states during the summer, then they migrate to Central America for the winter. The Scissor-tailed flycatcher is distinguished by a long tail with a gap in the middle, giving the appearance of scissors.

The Scissor-tailed flycatcher’s long tail greatly helps in balance and allows it to twist and turn sharply and quickly while flying. These birds catch grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and other insects while in mid-flight, so their tail helps them keep up with the movements of their prey during the chase.

2. Greater Roadrunner

greater roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner | image by Renee Grayson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Geococcyx californianus
  • Length: 20.5 – 21.3 inches

The greater roadrunner is a large, ground-dwelling bird native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. One of its notable features is its tail, which is longer than other birds and is usually held at an upward angle. In fact, their long tails help them maintain balance and “steer” like a rudder while running. Greater roadrunners live in arid deserts and scrublands, where these running birds chase down and eat large insects, frogs, scorpions, birds and small mammals. 

They were given their name because they would rather run and walk than fly. These amazing animals can run up to 17 miles per hour and will begin running as soon as three weeks after hatching. 

3. Long-tailed broadbill

Long-tailed broadbill
Long-tailed broadbill | image by Jason Thompson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Psarisomus dalhousiae
  • Size: 10 inches

The long-tailed broadbill is a bird found in Southeast Asia and India. It’s a small bird, measuring 10 inches in length and weighing between 50 and 60 grams. They are quite colorful, with bright green feathers on its body and wings, yellow and black heads, and long blue tails.

These colorful species can be found in forests at elevations ranging from 150 to 2500 meters above sea level. During the non-breeding season, long-tailed broadbills can be seen feeding in groups of up to 15 birds. They’ll eat small insects found in their environment, such as grasshoppers, crickets, and moths, but they’ll also eat small frogs and fruits. Although they are known for being “shy” since they tend to hide in tree foliage, they are quite noisy! 

4. Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit | image by caroline legg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Aegithalos caudatus
  • Size: 5–6 inches

The long-tailed tit is a small bird that measures between 5 and 6 inches in length. These species are distinguished by their round bodies and proportionally long tails that measures about 3 inches in length. They have pale underparts with a dark back and tail. While their tail isn’t extremely long, it is noticeably longer than other members of the tit family.

Long-tailed tits are native to Europe and parts of Asia, where they’re common in gardens and scrubs. These birds are very sociable and active, and they travel and forage in groups of up to 20 birds. But when breeding season arrives, these tits split their flocks and form pairs to breed and raise their young.

5. White-tailed tropicbird

White-tailed tropicbird
White-tailed tropicbird | image by kansasphoto via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Phaethon lepturus
  • Size: 28–31 inches

The white-tailed tropicbird has quite an elegant look to it. It‘s a bird that inhabits the tropics of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. They’re also the national bird of Bermuda and are commonly seen in the Caribbean and Hawaii. These birds are white all over, with a black eye-mask, black wingtips and a long black stripe on each wing. Most of their tail feathers are short, with just a few central tail feathers that extend much longer than the rest.

They primarily feed on flying fish and squid, which they hunt by diving from as high as 20 meters in the air. During courtship, groups of 2-20 birds circle and fly around each other, while swinging their tail streamers side to side. If a female is pleased with the presentation, mating will occur. 

6. Common pheasant

Male pheasant
Male pheasant | image by Smudge 9000 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Phasianus colchicus
  • Size: 24 to 35 inches

The common pheasant is a medium-sized bird ground bird native to Asia and parts of Europe. They have been introduced to many other regions, and in North America go by the name “ring-necked” pheasant due to males white collar. Pheasants have long been a popular game bird, known for their colorful plumage and very long, pointed brown tail with thin, black bars. Males are much more flashy than females, with a colorful head and body and long tail. Females are all brown with shorter tails. 

They can fly, but prefer to walk and run on the ground. Males use their long tails as part of threat displays towards other males over breeding territory, and also as part of courtship displays to woo prospective females. 

7. Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah

Exclamatory paradise whydah
Exclamatory Paradise Whydah | image by Francesco Veronesi via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Vidua interjecta

The oddly named Exclamatory Paradise Whydah can be found in parts of central Africa such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Guinea. They’re most commonly seen in open wooded areas with tall grasses and bushes.

These birds eat grass seeds that they find on the ground. Outside of the breeding season, both males and females are fairly plain, with brownish backs, pale undersides, and short tails. But then during the breeding season, males transform. Their plumage turns velvety black, with a golden throat and nape, white belly, and they grow incredibly long black tail feathers, up to three times the length of their body! After the breeding season is complete, they will drop these long tail feathers until the next spring. 

8. Green peafowl


  • Scientific Name: Pavo muticus
  • Size: 3-3.6 feet

Green peafowl is a type of forest bird native to Southeast Asia and Indochina. While they aren’t the peacock that most people in the western world think of, they are in the same family. Males and females have iridescent green and blue feathers and long necks. 

They also have crests that are thinner and taller in males but wider and shorter in females. Males’ very long tails have upper-tail coverts that are 6.6 ft. long and decorated with eyespots. Females also have this feature, but it’s much smaller than males.

In order to attract females during the breeding season, males spread out their tail coverts into a fan and display them while performing courtship dances and making noise with their feathers. After the breeding season is over, they will loss the extra-long tail feathers and much more closely resemble the females.

9. White-throated Magpie-jay

White throated magpie jay
White throated magpie jay | image by Bernard DUPONT via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Calocitta formosa
  • Size: 17–22 inches

The White-throated magpie-jay is a large bird found in Central America, mainly in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. They can be found in dry forests and near coffee plantations, where they primarily eat insects and small fruits.

These birds have blue backs, white underparts, a black necklace and a few long feathers that stick up from the top of their head. Their long tails that measure 12 to 13 inches in length, with males having longer tails than females. They’re social animals that live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals.

White-throated magpie-jays nest in trees that are typically found in open pastures. Their wide-ranging diet includes both plant and animal material. Young birds learn foraging skills from their parents for several years. 

10. Wild turkey

  • Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo
  • Size: 39–47 inches

Wild turkeys are a type of bird native to North America that’s widely used as a game bird. While they may not have tails as long as a peacock, we put them on this list because males are known for impressively spreading their tail feathers out like a big fan when displaying.

Turkeys build their nests in the ground, surrounded by vines, grasses, and shrubs. These birds don’t migrate and can be seen foraging and roosting in trees during the day.

During the breeding season, male turkeys use their tail to attract females. In order to attract a female, they’ll fan them out, strut, and use vocalizations such as gobbling.

11. Superb lyrebird

Subperb lyrebird (male) | image by Brian Ralphs via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Menura novaehollandiae
  • Size: 31–39 inches

The superb lyrebird is the world’s largest songbird and is native to Australia. It’s famous for its beautiful, intricate, and long tail feathers. Like many species, males have more elaborate tails than females. The males tail feathers can grow up to 28 inches long.

Their name comes from the shape of the outer two feathers of their tails, which resemble a lyre. Superb lyres are born with this, allowing them to be used for courting and display. 

They build courtship grounds during the breeding season, where females visit a number of them before selecting the ideal mate. To attract females, males will perform courtship dances by fanning out their tails and vibrating the tail feathers while singing loudly.

12. Indian paradise flycatcher

Indian Paradise Flycatcher (male) | image by Hari K Patibanda via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Terpsiphone paradisi
  • Size: 7.5 – 8.7 inches

The Indian paradise flycatcher is native to India, Central Asia and Myanmar. They have black heads, white bellies, and either rufous or white bodies. Only the males have extra long central tail feathers (up to 12 inches), and it takes young males about 2-3 years before they grow in. 

These birds construct their nests out of sticks, spider webs, and roots, and they sometimes place them near drongo nests for added predator protection. Both males and females participate in nest building, egg incubation and feeding the young.