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The most terrifying birds in the world

by Gabrielle Lisa Collard

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When it comes to birds, there are two schools of thought. Some will say that these majestic flying creatures, with their melodious song and brightly coloured plumage, represent lightness and joy. Others, however, are more of the opinion that birds are demons, sent from hell to peck out our eyes. Without wanting to influence your opinion on these astonishing animals in the slightest, here are 25 of the most terrifying birds on the planet.

Marabou stork

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This gigantic bird, which can weigh up to nine kilograms (20 pounds) and have a wingspan of up to three metres (10 feet), is more likely to haunt your nightmares than to deliver cute babies.

Muscovy duck

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How could you possibly resist this stunner of a duck that seems to have just plunged its head into a deep fat fryer? Speaking of fryers, its domesticated cousin, the Barbary duck, goes excellently with a honey sauce. Do with that information what you will.

Cassowary

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Considered to be the world’s most dangerous bird, this enormous species that lives mainly in Australia at least has the decency to don its old horn hat before leaving the house — it’s important to look good when you’re on the attack.

California condor

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With its bald head and imposing stature, you have to admit that the California condor would cut a deliciously mournful figure perched on your gravestone under the light of a full moon.

Sri Lanka frogmouth

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What with its crusty-looking feathers and its head that looks like it’s been distorted by a Snapchat filter from hell, it’s hard to put our finger on what we like most about this magnificent bird that lives in Sri Lanka and southern India. Some people just have all the luck…

Capuchinbird

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If there’s one thing this superb creature from the Amazon can teach us, it’s that you should never try to put out a campfire by throwing water onto it.

Red-tailed hawk

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This powerful bird of prey that soars all over North America, from the countryside to Central Park, strikes fear into the hearts of rodents, snakes, small animals and the occasional jogger, if their heads look too much like a small furry animal. Earmuff fans be warned!

Wild turkey

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Wild by name, wild by nature — when not munching insects in the countryside, these birds have been known to enter houses uninvited (even breaking a window in one case!) and leave them trashed. And we mustn’t forget to mention one of their other favourite pastimes — terrorizing the elderly.

Shoebill

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Just like its name indicates, this spectacular bird has a huge, shoe-like beak that takes up approximately 99% of its face. Extremely practical when it comes to catching big fish, but less so when it comes to picking photos for your Tinder profile.

Ostrich

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Although those beautiful big eyelashes make this bird look like a friendly Disney character, don’t be fooled: the ostrich is a ferocious bird that can run at great speed and has no qualms about attacking humans with its sharp beak and claws. Thankfully, Wikihow has prepared this practical guide to surviving an ostrich attack. When it comes to bird watching, forewarned is forearmed.

Snowy owl

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It’s not its appearance that makes the snowy owl a truly terrifying bird. It has a place on this list because of its talent as a hunter and its exceptional hearing, which allows it to hear the faintest rustle of a disorientated field mouse (even through a thick layer of snow) and to swoop down on it with uncanny precision. Let’s just thank our lucky stars that it’s not the size of an elephant!

Emu

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Think ostrich dipped in engine oil. This enormous bird thrills safari park visitors the world over, providing the unforgettable spectacle of a hungry pterodactyl-like creature taking huge pecks out of the passenger seat before running off with the little one’s backpack. Memories to last a lifetime.

Common loon

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With its mottled black plumage and devil red eyes, the common loon lives throughout the northern U.S. and Canada. If you see one on your windowsill, one cold November night, you’ll know you never should have signed that contract with your blood.

Common potoo

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More amusing than truly terrifying, the common potoo looks a lot like a pug that has just caught sight of a squirrel. Its flabbergasted countenance, big yellow eyes and pointed beak give it a certain charm, we think. Or maybe not.

Turkey vulture

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This jolly bird of prey, found throughout the Americas, is a scavenger, meaning that it eats rotting carcasses. That must explain why it has such a… healthy glow.

Bearded vulture

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This surprising specimen, that lives in mountainous regions of Europe, Asia and North Africa, looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. Imposing and ferocious, it is also known as an ossifrage, which means bone breaker, which should reassure you, no?

Helmeted guineafowl

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The thing that immediately catches your eye about the helmeted guineafowl is its resemblance to a Sullustan, or maybe a barber from the Far West. Whatever, its natty sideburns are the envy of the animal kingdom.

Northern bald ibis

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Yet another bird that should really think about reviewing its skincare regimen. With its long red beak and bulging eyes, it brings to mind the masks warn by notorious plague doctors during the time of the Black Death. We’re a long way from nightingales now.

Great horned owl

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Growing up to 1.2 m (four feet), this bird, with its piercing eyes, is found throughout the Americas. While it’s true that it poses much more of a threat to shrews than to humans, its chilling hoot makes our blood run cold.

Brown pelican

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The brown pelican likes to spend its days in warm coastal water, and lives throughout the Americas. It’s the big, hooked beak and imposing size — it can weigh almost 10 kg (22 pounds)! — that have earned it a place on this list. We swear, there’s definitely something lurking behind those red-rimmed eyes.

Mute swan

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Admired for its peaceful silhouette and magnificent white plumage, the mute swan lives in North America, western Europe, Asia and Australasia. While it may look pretty on a postcard, in certain parts of the world it is considered to be a harmful, invasive species as a result of its aggressive nature and mischievous habit of attacking unsuspecting bathers.

King vulture

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It’s hard to put a finger on just what is so scary about the king vulture. Could it be its Cruella de Vil coat, or maybe the fact that its beak appears to be covered in Doritos? Whatever it may be, given its stately demeanour and the numerous Maya legends that it has inspired, it might be wise to treat it with a bit of respect. Just in case.

Australian magpie

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Like basically any animal that originates in Australia, the Australian magpie wants you dead. They have achieved fame through countless videos showing cyclists falling victim to attacks by these angry birds, mistaking their helmet for a marmot. Males become doubly aggressive during the egg-laying season, and while their paternal instinct is laudable, it doesn’t make them any less terrifying.

European herring gull

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This common bird, to be found hanging around the bins of any good fast-food restaurant, lives along the coast of America and Europe. A scavenger, this bird likes long walks on the beach — the ideal spot for stealing snacks from vacationers — as well as indulging in a spot of cannibalism. When in need of reinforcements, these gulls emit a loud cry to attract all of their friends that are currently in the vicinity. Fries or die!

Harpy eagle

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The harpy eagle, which you could be forgiven for mistaking for a reclusive 17th-century count with a dark secret, can grow to have a wingspan of up to two metres (6.5 feet). Living in Central America, this bird feeds on adorable creatures like sloths, possums, porcupines, monkeys, armadillos and kinkajous. We’ll wait in the car, if that’s OK with you?

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