Everyone loves a flightless bird even though these birds might be really really big. There’s something about the staunch determination of an animal that can not quite do
The darling of drive-through animal parks, emus call to mind the bloodthirsty determination of dinosaurs. Looking a bit like skinny, feathered velociraptors, these guys seem to flourish wherever they live. Popular for the many products that can be produced from these gangly creatures, emu farms are rampant throughout their native Australia, the US, and other countries. They are prized for their leather, feathers, meat and the emu oil derived from their fat. In some circles, emu oil is regarded as a cure-all that can regrow lost hair, moisturize skin, bolster the immune system and cure many ailments. An Amazon search of refined emu oil reveals a price of around $5 per fluid oz.
9. Flightless Cormorant
Found only in the Galapagos, these striking birds are the largest of the Cormorant species, except for their stubby little useless wings. Despite their flightlessness, they are expert divers. However, unlike true water birds, their wings lack the oil to render them waterproof and they must spend time after every diving session preening and drying their wings in the sun. Despite not having too many predators, weather patterns, oil spills, and other unnatural occurrences have wrought havoc on their numbers. They are currently one of the rarest birds on earth, and one of the rarest of our 10 flightless birds.
8. Southern Cassowary
This may be the most unusual of our 10 flightless birds. Looking a bit like a turkey and ostrich combined, it is the 2nd heaviest bird in the world, weighing up to 187 lbs. and standing up to 67 inches in height. The Southern Cassowary is native to New Guinea, Indonesia and the northern tip of Australia and is currently a threatened species. However, humans, dogs, and other animals should feel equally threatened by the Cassowary. They are known to attack if threatened and are capable of impaling and lacerating animal flesh with their 12cm-long middle talon.
Another New Zealand bird, the Kakapo is the only naturally flightless parrot on earth. It sleeps during the day and emerges at night to feed on vegetation. Of our 10 flightless birds, the Kakapo may be the rarest. Only 150 of these creatures are left in the world. They are also difficult to breed because of their very specific dietary needs.
6. Greater Rhea
This tall South American bird is really amazing. They are in the same order as emus and ostriches and while the physical similarities are clear, their refusal to eat cereal grains makes them a great help to farmers who let them roam their farms to eat locusts, grasshoppers, and tree bugs. The Greater Rhea is fairly common among our 10 flightless birds.
The ostrich is an icon. A rock star among flightless birds. No top-10 flightless birds list is complete without this one. These big birds, like their emu cousins, evoke thoughts of Jurassic landscapes. These guys roam the African savannah in packs of 6-8. Like lions, these ‘prides’ consist of a single male and an entourage of females laying giant trademark ostrich eggs. They will avoid humans at all costs and easily outrun us. However, if cornered, ostriches can unleash vicious attacks.
Another New Zealander, the Kiwi is known for its cuteness. Its fat body, long straight beak, and stubby little legs give it the look of a Star Trek tribble. Most of the five species of Kiwi are threatened due to the introduction of predators by man. Regardless, the Kiwi represents the spirit of New Zealand’s culture.
3. Moa (extinct)
Belonging to the same group as the Kiwi, the Moa were a dominant species in New Zealand prior to being hunted to extinction by Maori peoples around the year 1440. At their peak, these giant birds would dwarf a human, stretching to heights of 12 feet and weighing over 500 lbs. No wonder they were hunted down. A single Moa could feed a whole family!
2. Emperor Penguin
Another flightless icon, no top 10 list would be complete without this cute addition. While there are many species of penguin, the Emperor is the largest and most iconic. Popularized even further by the Disney documentary March of the Penguins, these birds are a favorite of many.
Thankfully extinct, this massive carnivorous and highly predatory bird may have been the largest flightless bird in the history of the world. Standing a bit shorter than the moa, this hefty predator was estimated to weigh up to 880 lbs. This guy was the biggest land predator in its environment and is sometimes called the ‘terror bird.’