Colors and patterns may be some of the best ways to identify birds, however distinctive shapes can also help a lot. One feature that can really stand out is birds with pointy heads. While their skull isn’t actually pointed, some species utilize a tuft of feathers on top of their head that they can extend straight up in a point. In this article we will look at some of the most notable birds with pointy heads.
14 Birds with Pointy Heads
Some of the species that are most known for pointy heads include titmice, jays, cardinals, flycatchers and woodpeckers. Let’s take a look at 14 examples below.
1. Tufted Titmouse
Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor
Native to the eastern United States, the tufted titmouse is a common site at backyard bird feeders. These small birds are between 5.5 and 6.3 inches long.
They have blue-gray feathers on their backs, heads, and wings with a pale chest and belly. Depending on how they are standing, you may also see the buffy orange stripe along their sides, just under the wing. As their name suggests, this titmouse has a tuft of feathers that sticks up from their forehead, giving their head a pointy appearance.
The tufted titmouse is an active bird, always darting about or searching through foliage to find food. Vocal too, you will frequently hear them calling “peter-peter” or making various squawking calls.
2. Steller’s Jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta stelleri
The Steller’s jay is a large member of the jay family found from southern Alaska all the way down the Pacific coast into Central America. They are common birds in coniferous forests of the west, where they feed on pine seeds, nuts, berries, acorns, and small insects.
Steller’s jays are black from the chest up, and blue from the chest down. Their overall dark coloring can help them disappear into the forest shadows. These jays sport a tall pointed crest of black feathers on their head. While it may be hard to glimpse their coloring if watching them from far away, their long slender body and pointed head make their silhouette easy to recognize.
3. Northern Cardinal
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
The Northern cardinal is a common and beloved bird throughout the eastern United States. Both males and females sport a pointed head crest, although their coloring is very different. Males are bright red with a black face, while females are a tawny brown with reddish hues.
If you live within their range, putting out black sunflower seeds is a great way to attract them to your yard. In the winter they travel together in small flocks. However once the spring breeding season begins, the group will break up into pairs and fight for territory.
4. Cedar Waxwing
Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum
While not a tall point, the cedar waxwing appears to have a point jutting out from the back of it’s head. For this species, their tuft is a wisp of feathers that slicks back over their head and trails out behind it. The elegant looking Cedar waxwing has soft, silky plumage with a tan head and chest, gray wings, yellow belly, and black “Zorro” mask across their eyes.
They get their name from the waxy red tips on their secondary wing feathers, which are more prominent in mature adults. In the northern U.S. they remain year-round, whereas the waxwings in Canada move to the southern U.S. to spend the winter. You can try and catch a glimpse of them by having fruiting trees or berry producing shrubs in your yard. You’ll often see a flock traveling together, busily plucking small fruits from trees.
5. Black-crested Titmouse
Scientific name: Baeolophus atricristatus
If you happen to live in Texas or northeastern Mexico, you may be familiar with the black-crested titmouse. Like all of the titmice in North America it has a tuft, but this species in particular really has a pointy head that stands out. They coloring is very close to the familiar tufted titmouse with the gray back, pale underbody and orange sides. However this titmouse sports a long black stripe that starts between their eyes and travels all the way up to the top of their crest.
Black-crested titmice are locally common within their range, especially in forests and parks with trees. They are closely related to the tufted titmouse, and in areas where both species occur, they may mate to form hybrids.
Scientific name: Cardinalis sinuatus
The Pyrrhuloxia is related to the more widespread northern cardinal, but is only found in the hot deserts of the southwest. They have gray bodies, fat yellow beaks and red highlights. Males have red on the face and chest where females don’t, but they both have a pointy head of shaggy gray and red feathers.
While they are territorial during the breeding season, they will join together in the winter into huge flocks. Like their cousins the cardinals, they will be attracted to feeders with sunflower seeds. When water is hard to find in their dry habitat, they can still get their hydration by eating insects.
7. Blue Jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
From the midwest all the way to the east coast, another common and recognizable bird that most people can name is the blue jay. This common jay species is known for its beautiful colors, wide array of sounds and calls, and bold behavior. These large birds, about 12 inches in length, are frequently seen in backyards and other suburban environments. They will eat birdseed but especially love nuts, and are known for their caching of acorns. Putting out peanuts in the shell is a good way to get their attention.
Males and females look alike, with a white belly and vibrant blue head, back and tail with black banding. They have a large black “necklace”, and a tall blue pointy head crest that they can stick straight up or flatten all the way down.
8. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus
The pileated woodpecker is the largest member of the woodpecker family found in North America. They are between 16 and 19 inches long. They can often be seen on tree trunks, especially dead or dying trees, using their strong bills to drill into the bark to find food and build cavities for nests.
The pileated woodpecker has a distinctly pointy head thanks to its crest of red feathers. This bird also happens to be the one that Woody Woodpecker was modeled after, if you’re thinking that red point has a familiar look to it. Their black body can still make them hard to spot in the forest, despite their size. You may hear them before you see them, as they are quite vocal and have a loud piping call that travels a fair distance.
9. Great Crested Flycatcher
Scientific name: Myiarchus crinitus
The great crested flycatcher may not have quite as prominent a crest as some of the other birds on this list, but their fluffy brown tuft is enough to give their head a noticeable pointy shape. These birds have a yellow underbelly, grayish-brown head and back, and rusty brown under-tail.
Found in dense leafy woodlands and along forest edges, they’re known for their loud calls and aerial skills in catching insects. You’ll find them visiting woodland areas of the eastern half of the U.S. during the spring and summer months. Although you may even spot them in your backyard if you have enough tall trees.
10. Red-whiskered Bulbul
Scientific name: Pycnonotus jocosus
The fruit-eating red-whiskered bulbul is native to Asia, however if you happen to live around Kendall, Florida, you may get a chance to see them! A few of these birds escaped from an aviary in Miami in the 1960’s and were able to thrive in the wild, forming an ongoing local population. Escaped populations have also been able to form local groups on some of the Hawaiian islands. Fruit is their main meal, finding all they need in tropical forests, gardens and orchards.
These bulbul’s are named for the small red patch behind their eye. They have a gray back, white belly, black head and chest stripe, white cheek patch and tall pointed black head feathers.
Scientific Name: Phainopepla nitens
The phainopepla is a dark songbird that lives in the desert habitat of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Males have nearly black plumage, while females are gray, but both have red eyes. Both sexes also have a tall crest of pointed head feathers. Their interesting name comes from the Greek for “shining robe”, referring to males glossy plumage that shines in the sun.
Adult phainopeplas primarily eat berries and other fruits, including juniper, elderberry, sumac and desert mistletoe. Some places you may spot them in the U.S. include the Sonoran, Mojave and Colorado deserts.
12. Bohemian Waxwing
Scientific name: Bombycilla garrulus
The bohemian waxwing tends to be less well known than the cedar waxwing, perhaps due to their wandering nature. True to their name, they spend the fall and winter in groups, roaming across Canada and the U.S. following fruiting trees and shrubs. You never quite know where they are going to be, and may be prevalent somewhere one year and completely absent the next. Then they head to the far north of Alaska and the arctic to breed in the summer.
They do look very similar to the cedar waxwing, and sport the same wispy brown point on top of their heads. However this species has more orange in the face, orange on the underside of their tail, and a gray belly.
13. Bridled Titmouse
Scientific name: Baeolophus wollweberi
This tiny titmouse has a distinctive black and white face with a very pointed head tuft. With their gray back and pale under parts, they look like a cross between a chickadee and a titmouse. The bridled titmouse can be found in middle elevation forests in the southern corners of New Mexico and Arizona down into Mexico.
These insect eaters bounce around foliage looking for insects and larvae among leaves, small branches and bark. A mated pair will stay together year round, and during the breeding season males will often feed their partner to strengthen their bond.
14. Red-Crested Cardinal
Scientific Name: Paroaria coronata
The red-crested cardinal is native to South America, specifically Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. However, they have made their way to most of the Hawaiian island where they are commonly seen at beach parks and in backyards. Red-crested cardinals are hard to mistake with their “colorblock” plumage – a gray back, white belly and scarlet red head with tall point.