Like people, birds can have different eye colors. However unlike humans, many birds have red-colored eyes. Often red-eyed birds are born with darker eyes and then turn red when they reach maturity. For some waterfowl, this may help them see underwater, although for the most part it is unknown if having red irises provides any benefits. One thing is certain, they can look quite striking! Let’s take a look at 12 birds with red eyes.
12 Birds With Red Eyes
1. American Coot
Scientific Name: Fulica americana
The American Coot is a migratory bird that lives in North America. It’s also known as a mud hen and is frequently mistaken for a duck. These coots are typically found in freshwater habitats like marshes and lakes. They have bills similar to chickens, which are white in color with a black tip, and they can grow up to 16 inches long. Their red eyes can stand out quite a bit from their all black head.
They’re also social birds that live in large groups and migrate in large numbers. Their primary food source is aquatic animals such as fish and frogs, insects, and other plants found in their habitats.
2. Roseate Spoonbill
Scientific Name: Ajaia ajaja
The Roseate spoonbill is another bird with distinct red eyes. They are large birds mainly found in the Caribbean and South America, but can be found year-round in the U.S. along the Gulf of Mexico. These interesting looking birds have long legs, a pink body and long neck like a flamingo. However their neck is white, and head is a pale yellowish green with a red eye. And of course the most noticeable thing, their extremely long beak that ends in a spoon shape.
This lovely spoonbill can be found in shallow freshwater marshes and swamps, where it scoops up small aquatic animals such as crustaceans, fish, and insects.
3. Red-Eyed Vireo
Scientific Name: Vireo olivaceus
The Red-eyed Vireo is a small songbird that winters in South America, where you can find it from the Andes Mountains to Uruguay. They migrate to the U.S. and Canada to breed in the spring. They’re fairly common near the edges of densely forested areas, but you’ll have to look higher up in the trees to spot them.
Their back is olive, with white undersides and a gray crown. Adults have dark eyes with red irises, and a large white eyebrow stripe. They don’t have an elaborate song, but sing nearly all day long during the summer.
4. Wood Duck
Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
The Wood Duck is a stunning medium-sized duck with bright feathers and a rectangular tail. They live near lakes, ponds, and other freshwater habitats throughout much of the United States.
The coloration of the male and female wood duck differs because the males have iridescent, multicolored plumage, whereas the females are primarily brown with white throats and gray chests. Red eyes and a red beak are also another characteristic of male wood ducks.
Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus
The killdeer is a bird native to North and South America. They prefer to live in open areas like fields, and are known to be commonly spotted in parking lots, lawns and golf courses. The plumage of these birds is brown, with white underparts, a double black collar around the neck, and a rusty red eye.
Insects, worms, crustaceans, and mollusks make up their diet. They nest directly on the ground and can put on a display that makes them appear injured to lure potential predators away from their nest. Their name was derived from their loud calls that sounded like “kill-deer.”
Scientific Name: Phainopepla nitens
The Phainopepla is a songbird with a similar body shape to a cardinal. Males have dark, nearly black plumage, while females are gray, but both have red eyes. Juveniles are the same color as females, but have brown eyes rather than red. They live in desert ecosystems and can be found in Mexico and the southwestern U.S.
Adult Phainopeplas primarily eat berries and other fruits, but they’ll also consume insects during their short flights. In the spring, they lay grayish eggs with dark spots, which both parents incubate for fifteen days.
7. Black-crowned Night-Heron
Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
Unlike many other herons, the black-crowned night-heron has a stocky body and short neck. They have a black back and crown, gray wings, and a pale chest and face with red eyes. These members of the heron family can be found in North America, Central America and South America! Some migrate between Mexico and the U.S., while others stay where they are year-round.
Black-crowned night-herons build their nests in colonies on platforms made of sticks and leaves in trees, usually near wetlands such as rivers or lake edges. These herons are opportunistic hunters, preferring to feed on fish and other aquatic invertebrates.
Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria
Canvasbacks, also known as the aristocrats of ducks, are one of the largest diving ducks, reaching lengths of up to 22 inches. They prefer to breed in wetlands with bulrush, reeds, and cattails and can be found in small ponds and rivers with dense vegetation. Canvasbacks are also known for having red eyes, which are only found in males.
Both sexes are brownish in color during the non-breeding season. When breeding season arrives, the male’s heads and necks turn reddish-brown, their breasts black, and their wings and bellies white. Females look similar to males but are paler in color, with brown heads, grayish wings and bellies, and dark brown breasts.
9. White-winged dove
Scientific Name: Zenaida asiatica
The white-winged doves are common in the south western U.S. during the summer, and live year round throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. The white-winged dove is about 11 inches long and has a wingspan of nearly 23 inches. They’re medium-sized birds that nest in citrus orchards, though some have been observed nesting in ornamental trees in residential areas.
White-winged doves are brownish gray all over, with a white patch on each wing, a small black patch on the cheek and a bare patch of blue skin around the eye. Both sexes have red eyes as adults, but they have brown eyes as juveniles.
10. Horned grebe
Scientific Name: Podiceps auritus
Horned grebes are small waterbirds found in the Nearctic and Palearctic regions. They have red eyes, short and pointed bills, and feet that help them swim quickly through the water. New hatchlings can swim and dive immediately after hatching, but some are seen riding on their parents’ backs for the first week.
When breeding, these birds have red necks, and black heads with a golden tufts. These tufts give them the named “horned”, they don’t have actual horns. Females lay 3 to 8 eggs, and both adults build nests and incubate the eggs together. They eat aquatic arthropods during the summer and fish and crustaceans during the winter.
11. Common Loon
Scientific Name: Gavia immer
The common loon breeds across Canada and the northern U.S. in lakes, then spends the winter in coastal waters of both the Atlantic and Pacific. The adult common loon has red eyes due to pigments that filter light and allows them to see beneath the water. They also have long bodies and straight bills that resemble daggers, which they primarily use to catch fish.
Adults have a wingspan of 46 inches and weigh up to 2 pounds, with males being larger than females. Their legs are further back on their body, propelling them quickly underwater and allowing them to chase fast fish.
12. Cinnamon Teal
Scientific Name: Anas cyanoptera
The cinnamon teal is a 16-inch colorful duck living in North America’s shallow freshwater habitats. Their coloration varies depending on the gender, with the male having a “cinnamon” reddish-brown head and body with a dark green back, and the female being much plainer and mottled light and dark brown.
Only the male cinnamon teals have red eyes, which is another characteristic that sets them apart from the females. During the breeding season, males will also change the color of their heads, bellies, and necks to a brighter reddish hue.