Purple is a color often associated with royalty, mystique, and beauty. When you think of birds, you might not be able to picture a purple one. But there are several birds with purple feathers in the world. Some just have small purple accents, while others feature purple prominently on large portions of their body. Join us as we look at 20 purple birds, both in the U.S. and some interesting species from around the world.
20 Purple Birds
First, we will focus on 12 purple birds you can see in North America, specifically the United States. However, since there are many other purple birds worldwide, we’ve also included 7 beautiful species from other countries to finish up our article. Let’s dive in!
1. Purple Gallinule
Scientific Name: Porphyrio martinicus
A juvenile purple gallinule is light brown and plain-looking. But adults are starkly different. Adults are colorful birds with purple feathers on their heads and chests. They have iridescent green, blue, and brown feathers along their backs. Their beaks are red with a yellow tip. Even their legs and feet are colorful, a bright neon yellow. Their extra long toes help them to walk on top of aquatic vegetation in their preferred shallow freshwater habitat. Found mainly in South America and along the Mexican coast, they are also year-round residents of Florida and some move north into the Southeastern U.S. to breed.
2. Varied Bunting
Scientific Name: Passerina versicolor
The varied bunting is a songbird found in Central America. During the breeding season, they can be found in a few parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Females are light brown, but the males are the reason this bird makes the list. Adult males have violet on their head, wings and tail with a red wash on their chest and upper back. They also sport a bright red stripe on top of their head. These little buntings use thorny shrubs for nesting to help protect them from predators. They may remind you of their colorful cousin, the Painted Bunting.
3. European Starling
Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
Originally native to Europe and Asia, this widespread bird has grown in numbers around the world, including across the United States, and parts of South America, South Africa and eastern Australia. These dark birds show off a ray of iridescent colors in the sun, including purple and green. They are heavily speckled during the winter months, then slowly lose more and more of those speckles into the breeding season. Starlings are known to gather together in huge, noisy flocks and fly in unison creating pulsating shapes in the sky called murmurations. They can be a nuisance at backyard feeders, especially if you put out suet feeders.
4. Brewer’s Blackbird
Scientific Name: Euphagus cyanocephalus
The male Brewer’s blackbird has very dark plumage, but like many of the birds on this list their feathers are iridescent. You’ll see the hues of purple and blue in the sunlight. Females have no purple and tend to be a dusky brown. Brewer’s that breed in central North America fly to Mexico for the winter, however those found west of the Rocky Mountains tend to stay put year-round. They are not found along the east coast. These social birds nest in large colonies of up to 50 pairs.
5. Great-tailed Grackle
Scientific Name: Quiscalus mexicanus
Many grackle species we see in the U.S. share a similar look, where males have dark iridescent feathers and a yellow eye. Depending on the lighting you’ll see different colors in their plumage. While they all may contain at least a little purple, the Great-tailed Grackle tends to have the most purple appearance. These slender grackles have an extra long, V-shaped tail. Females are dark brown in color, and smaller than males.
Great-tailed grackles can be found throughout much of the southwestern United States, Texas, parts of California, the mid-west, Mexico and Central America. They are considered one of America’s fastest-expanding species, following irrigated crop land and urban development. They prefer open land and access to water, so you won’t often find them in heavy forest or desert habitat.
6. Costa’s Hummingbird
Scientific Name: Calypte costae
Costa’s hummingbird is a small bird native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S. This hummingbird is the second smallest species of hummingbird in North America, measuring only 3.5 inches. They can be found in various desert-like habitats, preferably those with Joshua trees and flowering cacti. Male Costa’s are known for their deep purple faces. They have a splash of purple on their head as well as their face, with purple feathers flaring out on both sides like a mustache. Females have a green back, a pale grayish head and cheek, and pale underparts.
7. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
The black-chinned hummingbird comes to the western U.S. during the summer, then travels down to western Mexico and Central America for the winter. Males throat color looks solid black in most light, hence their name, however they do have a small strip of purple feathers along the bottom. Females appear like most hummingbird females, green above and pale below with a plain throat. They are widespread among many habitats from deserts to mountain forests and like to perch on bare branches.
8. Gray-Headed Swamphen
Scientific Name: Porphyrio poliocephalus
The gray-head swamphen is a large bird, measuring up to 20 inches long, with a wingspan of over 3 feet. These colorful birds are similar to the purple gallinule in build and preferred habitat. Their chicken-like body has a mix of blue and purple feathers, with a red forehead shield and red beak. Living in wetlands, they too have extra long toes to help them walk on partially submerged vegetation. These swamphens are native to southern Asia, and have established populations in Florida after escaping captivity. Unfortunately their population has continued to grow, despite some attempts to capture and remove them. They are aggressive and compete with other rail species, having a negative impact on Floridas native birds.
9. Violet-Green Swallow
Scientific Name: Tachycineta thalassina
The violet-green swallow can be found year-round in parts of Mexico, but many will migrate between the western U.S. and Canada in the summer and Central America in the winter. These birds have white faces, chests, and bellies, with dark green heads and backs. You may not notice where the violet in their name comes from right away, but they have a hidden purple patch on their rump. In the right light, the length of their wings can also appear to have a bit of a purple hue. You’re most likely to find them swooping over bodies of water early in the day, hunting for flying insects.
10. Rock Pigeon
Scientific Name: Columba livia
The rock pigeon, or rock dove, is by no means a completely purple bird. But these common birds have iridescent purple and green feathers on their necks and upper chests than can really stand out against the gray coloring on the rest of their body. Rock pigeons usually gather in flocks, and are familiar sites in cities and parks.
11. Purple Martin
Scientific Name: Progne subis
Despite the name, purple martins aren’t as obviously purple as many birds on this list. However, their feathers are iridescent and can appear different colors, depending on how the light is hitting them. For the most part, males appear deep blueish black, but when the light hits their feathers just right, they are a deep purple color. Some individuals appear more purple than others. Females are more of an overall gray but with washes of bluish-purple on their head and back.
Purple martins are members of the swallow family. This species spends winters in South America, and migrate to North America (mainly the eastern half of the U.S.) for the summer breeding season. The best way to try and attract them is to put up a martin house.
12. Lucifer Hummingbird
Scientific name: Calothorax lucifer
The lucifer hummingbird can be found in Mexico’s central plateau, and some enter the U.S. in western Texas (Big Bend) or southern Arizona and New Mexico. The male lucifer hummingbird has a purple throat that extends down onto their upper chest, and they can flare the sides out dramatically. Females are green above, pale below with cinnamon on their sides and a cinnamon patch on the upper tail feathers. They also have a long bill that is curved downwards and a long forked tail. This gives them a distinctive shape compared to other U.S. visiting hummingbirds. Their preferred habitat is canyons and scrub with agave and cacti.
13. Purple Honeycreeper
Scientific Name: Cyanerpes caeruleus
Not many birds will make you say “wow!” like the vibrant colors of the purple honeycreeper. These beautiful birds are native to northern South America including Colombia, Venezuela and parts of Brazil. Female purple honeycreepers are green with mottled streaks on their breasts and rusty brown faces. But males are a deep purple color with a black eye mask, throat, and wing patches. Their bright yellow legs compliment their coloring. Honeycreepers have long, curved bills that can reach the nectar found deep in flowers, especially bromeliads.
14. Violet-Crowned Woodnymph
Scientific Name: Thalurania colombica
The violet-crowned woodnymph is a type of hummingbird found in parts of Central America and northwestern South America. The males of this species have iridescent green feathers on their throat, chest and back with purple feathers on the top of their heads, bellies, and wings. Females lack any purple coloration with gray throats and blue-green heads and backs. Both males and females will defend their favorite nectar sources, and females have been known to be even more aggressive than males.
15. Purplish Jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocorax cyanomelas
The purplish jay can be found in South America, primarily in Paraguay, Bolivia and southern Peru. This large jay species has a dark head and purple body. Their body coloring can range from deep purple to a more purplish-sooty gray. Purple jays, like many other jays, are social and like to travel together in groups, often being quite noisy.
16. Violet-Backed Starling
Scientific Name: Cinnyricinclus leucogaster
Also called the plum-colored starling or the amethyst starling, the violet-backed starling is found in sub-Saharan Africa. Like many other bird species, they are sexually dimorphic, which means the males and females look different. Female violet-backed starlings are streaked with brown and white feathers. The males have beautiful, iridescent purple feathers on their heads and backs. Depending on how the light hits them, they can range from magenta to fuchsia to violet. Their chests and bellies are a contrasting white. With a diet of seeds, insects and fruits, they tend to forage in the canopy rather than on the ground.
17. Purple Starling
Scientific Name: Lamprotornis purpureus
The purple starling is also known as the purple glossy starling. Males and females are similar in appearance. They have iridescent purple feathers on their bodies with greenish backs and wings. Their eyes are large and orange, and almost look like big googly eyes. The purple starling can be found in Africa, specifically Senegal, North Zaire, Sudan, and Kenya.
18. Black-capped Kingfisher
Scientific name: Halcyon pileata
Kingfishers are very unique looking birds that use their large beaks to dive for fish and other aquatic prey. The black-capped kingfisher is native to tropical regions of Asia. They have a red beak, black head, white neck and chest, and bright purple on their wings and tail. This species mainly sticks to mangrove forests along rivers and estuaries, perching above the water and peering down waiting for prey.
19. Lilac breasted Roller
Scientific name: Coracias caudatus
What a mix of colorful pastels the lilac-breasted roller is! As their name suggests, they have a light purple chest and throat. Their tan back is offset by various shades of blue on their cap, wings and belly. You can only find these colorful birds in the open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. When diving through the air, they tuck their wings in and roll. They also perform aerial acrobatics during mating, when males fly high then descend in loops and swoops while calling loudly, all to impress an on-looking female.
20. Purplish-backed Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocorax beecheii
The attractive purplish-backed jay is native to dry, deciduous forest habitat in northwestern Mexico. These jays have a black body and head, with a purple back, wings and tail. Immature birds have a yellow beak that will slowly darken to black as they become adults. Small social groups are formed, consisting of an adult pair and a few juveniles from the previous year. Newly hatched chicks are fed by both parents additional help from other members of the group.