What is the first part of a bird that you notice? It may be a distinct coloration or an intriguing feature such as a mohawk. You won’t see mohawks on every bird, but it sure is noticeable on birds with this characteristic.
Mohawks on birds are formed by the central feathers on their heads that stand upright, high above the rest. While it may be recognized as a mohawk, the official term for this “hairstyle” is a “crest.”
Crests often make the birds that wear them look more spectacular. However, the crest isn’t for show, as it has essential functions. Some of the crests’ main functions are for use in communication (especially showing excitement), attracting mates through courtship displays, territorial disputes, and as defense mechanisms.
There are over ten thousand birds worldwide, but only a tiny percentage have crests. Even so, you won’t find the same crest on different birds. Each species has its own unique crest shape, color, and size.
The following article looks at 15 of the world’s most beautiful types of birds with mohawks. This list is by no means exhaustive, and many other birds with mohawks can be seen on our beautiful planet.
1. Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)
The Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda and has an extremely impressive, giant yellow mohawk.
They have a dark grey body which contrasts with the pale grey neck, white forewings, a chestnut patch on the rear of the wings, and a yellow patch on the upper wings. The cheeks are white with a tiny bit of red at the top, the forehead is black, the eyes are pale blue-grey, and red wattles are on the throat.
This species inhabits wetlands, open grasslands, savannahs, marshes, farmlands, pastures, and irrigation land. They are found in southern and eastern Africa.
Grey Crowned Crane feed on fresh grasses, sedge seed heads, roots, insects, lizards, worms, crabs, and frogs.
2. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
The Northern Cardinal is one of North America’s most recognizable birds, with the males’ dashing bright red plumage, red beak, and black face mask and throat. The stand-out features of the males are the large crest, heavy beak, and long tail.
Females are less dashing, with brown plumage, a dark face mask, a red beak, and red tints on the wings, crest, and tail.
They live in thickets, forest edges, shrubby fields, yards, and parks, amongst other habitat types.
They are common in yards across almost all of eastern North America and the southwestern United States.
They love feeders and are often the first bird you’ll hear in the morning. They feed on fruit and seeds, with some insects also being eaten.
3. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are large white birds with mohawks. This Australasian Cockatoo occurs in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia’s Aru Islands.
Their bodies are almost entirely white, except for a dark beak, an impressive yellow mohawk, and a yellow tint on the underwing and undertail.
They live in woodlands, forests, farmlands, mangroves, parks, and yards.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeds on fruit, seeds, nuts, roots, and insects.
4. Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata)
The Great Blue Turaco is a large colorful bird of western and central Africa with a prominent black mohawk.
This is the largest turaco species. It has a bluish-turquoise head, neck, chest, and upper parts. The upper belly and undertail are greenish-yellow, and the lower belly is chestnut. The beak is yellow and red, while a black band is seen at the end of the tail, and the flanks are light green.
The chin, throat, and cheeks are greyish, and the eye ring is blue. The wings don’t have any crimson feathers, which is unusual for a turaco.
They live in forests and tall trees in secondary habitats.
The Great Blue Turaco feeds on fruit, buds, flowers, leaves, new shoots, and insects.
5. Western Crowned Pigeon (Goura cristata)
When it comes to mohawks, there aren’t many birds that can compete with that of the Western Crowned Pigeon. This is a massive pigeon with blue-grey plumage, a dark blue face mask, an enormous blue crest, a white shoulder patch with a maroon border, a maroon band on the back, red eyes, and a greyish-white tip to the tail.
They inhabit the lowland forests of West Papua in northwestern New Guinea.
The food they eat includes fruit and seeds.
6. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
The Eurasian Hoopoe rocks an incredible black-and-white tipped orange mohawk. The wings and back have black and white striping, and the tail is black with a single white stripe. They have a cinnamon-orange to greyish-orange head, neck, and chest, a white belly, and a white rump. Their bill is long and downcurved.
They inhabit semi-open and open habitats such as grasslands, woodlands, steppe habitats, savannahs, farmlands, orchards, and suburban environments like yards and parks.
They are widespread in Europe, Asia, northern sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and Madagascar. This species is partially migratory, with birds in the north of their range in Europe and Northern Asia moving south for winter into Africa. Those that live in Africa stay all year round.
They predominantly feed on spiders and insect adults, larvae, and pupae, but they sometimes eat plant material like leaves, seeds, roots, fruit, reptiles, and frogs.
7. Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus)
The Palm Cockatoo is the largest cockatoo and possibly the largest parrot in the world. With their impressive size comes a massive mohawk above their heads.
Palm Cockatoos aren’t very colorful with their dark grey-black bodies, but they do have a red patch between their eyes and enormous beaks.
They live in the Cape York Peninsula of Australia, as well as in New Guinea and Indonesia’s Aru Islands. They inhabit rainforests, savannahs, and woodlands.
They feed on fruit, nuts, leaf buds, and seeds. Occasionally, they eat insects.
8. Great Curassow (Crax rubra)
The Great Curassow is a black bird with a curly mohawk and the largest species of curassow. Males are entirely black, except for the white belly and a yellow bump on the beak.
Females show a large amount of variation in plumage color, but three main morphs exist. The barred morph has barring on the neck, back, wings, and tail. The black morph has a black neck, back, and tail, and barring on the wings. The rufous morph has reddish-brown plumage with barring on the tail.
They live in tropical forests and mangroves of eastern Mexico, Central America, and northwestern South America.
They feed on fruit, seeds, insects, and small reptiles.
9. Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Steller’s Jay is an imposing black and blue bird with a mohawk. They have a black head and crest, which fades into grey on the upper back, while the rest of the body is blue. Some birds have whitish patches around the eyes.
Steller’s Jay has an extensive distribution from Nicaragua to Alaska along the western section of North America.
They naturally live in coniferous forests. They are familiar with people and can be common in campgrounds, parks, yards, and other residential areas.
Steller’s Jays often pick up scraps opportunistically, but their natural diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts, insects, eggs, and nestlings.
If you have a feeder in your yard and you live within their range, there’s a good chance they may come to visit. They love peanuts, suet, and sunflower seeds.
10. Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus)
The Cockatiel has a grey body and beak and expansive white wing patches. The males have a yellow-grey mohawk, orange cheek marks, and a whitish-yellow face.
Females are less colorful and greyer overall. The rump, lower back, and central tail are lightly barred grey and yellow. They also have yellow barring and spots on the underwings and undertail.
Cockatiels are native to Australia and inhabit many arid and semi-arid habitats, such as savannahs, farmlands, grasslands, open woodlands, parks, and yards.
They feed on seed pods, fruit, nuts, flowers, and seeds.
This small parrot is a well-known pet bird with a mohawk. Many bird pet owners enjoy keeping Cockatiels as they’re very adaptable, making them easy to maintain.
11. Grey Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
The Grey Go-away-bird is a large, long-tailed grey bird with an impressive mohawk. Their plumage is grey overall, and they have stout black beaks.
You’ll often see them sitting on tree tops, where they produce the alarm call from which they get their name. The call they’re known for is a loud nasal “go-awaaay” call.
They occur in southern Africa. It inhabits savannahs, adjacent woodlands, and suburban environments like yards and parks.
Their favorite food is fruit. However, they also feed on leaves, buds, flowers, nectar, snails, and insects. They also visit feeders for fruit and vegetables.
12. Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria)
The Victoria Crowned Pigeon is a massive pigeon that inhabits the swamp and lowland forests of northern New Guinea.
Their defining features are the blue-grey plumage overall, with a maroon chest, a dark blue face patch, red eyes, a light grey shoulder patch with a maroon base, a light grey tail tip, and an extravagant blue crest with white tips on the feathers.
They are generally found on the ground, feeding on fruit, seeds, and insects.
13. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
The Tufted Titmouse is a little bird with a mohawk. They have a greyish upperside, a whitish underside, a black forehead, and orange sides.
These cute birds inhabit woodlands, forests, hedgerows, parks, and yards throughout the year in the eastern United States.
Tufted Titmouses feed on insects, nuts, berries, and seeds.
They make a “peter-peter-peter” call that you may be familiar with as they’re common in yards.
They may frequent your feeder during winter as they search for extra food.
14. Southern Crested Guineafowl (Guttera edouardi)
The Southern Crested Guineafowl is one of three crested guineafowl species in Africa. This particular species is found in southern Africa.
It has odd proportions: a large black body speckled in bluish-white, a whitish bar on the wing, a small head with a bare blue-grey face, and a curly mohawk on top. They have bright red eyes and a greyish-white beak. The neck is plain black, and a white patch is often visible behind the head.
They live in thickets, woodlands, and forests where it feeds on fruit, seeds, leaves, shoots, stems, bulbs, and roots. Other than plant material, they eat insects, spiders, and millipedes.
15. Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)
The Long-crested Eagle sports an impressive long brown-black mohawk on top of its head. The rest of the body is dark brown-black, except for the underwing and undertail, which are primarily white. The eyes are golden-yellow, and the bill is dark-tipped and yellow.
They occur in grasslands, woodlands, open forests, plantations, open fields, parks, and yards.
You’ll most likely see this raptor perched, looking for its next prey item in the form of rodents, reptiles, and young birds occasionally.
They occur throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa.
Mohawks are worn by some of the most beautiful birds on the planet.
The mohawk is an incredible-looking feature, but they aren’t just for show. Their functions are vital for the species’ survival. They are used for communication, courtship, and threat displays.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the mohawk has led some birds with mohawks to be targeted by the pet trade.
Many species with crests are now threatened and listed as vulnerable, endangered, or worse on the IUCN Red List. Their main threats are habitat loss, illegal hunting, range restriction, human encroachment, and capturing for the pet trade.
Other species have large populations and few threats. They are even considered pests in some situations.
Only a small number of birds with mohawks were covered in this article, but hopefully, it has provided good insight into the world of birds with mohawks.