7 Popular Birds that Cannot Fly

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of birds?

Marvelous creatures that can fly and soar above all living things on earth.

Even so, we are very well aware of the fact that not all birds can fly.

Let’s discover more of such glorious birds that cannot fly but are equally fascinating.

Galapagos Cormorant

They are more commonly known as Flightless Cormorants (Phalacrocorax harrisi) for the obvious reasons that they cannot fly.

Galapagos Cormorant

Galapagos Cormorants are found on only two islands on the Galapagos, Isabela, and Fernandina.

They are the only species amongst the 28 others that cannot fly.

The wings of Galapagos Cormorantare only one-third of the total wingspan required for them to carry their large bodies.

Their Carina, a place for attachment of muscles needed to fly, is also tiny in size.

So what if they can’t fly? They are well adapted to their habitat and are great swimmers. Their tiny wings also play a role in helping them hop onto rocks along the coast.

They feed on fish, like rockfish and eels. May even dive deeper into the sea to look for octopus and squid.

Their breeding ground is found near the coldest of waters, and they nest on lava outcrops or shingles.

Their ability to breed over three times per year leverages them to recover from any dips in population because of environmental changes.

The abundance of food and the absence of any natural predator has allowed them to survive on these islands easily.

At present, the estimated count of the breeding pairs is around 1000, making them one of the rarest birds in the world.


The Weka (Gallirallus australis) belongs to the family of Rails. This flightless bird is found in New Zealand.


It is a sizeable chicken-sized bird, primarily brown in color.

A total of four subspecies of Weka can be found in New Zealand: the Western Weka, the North Island Weka, the Stewart Island Weka, and the Buff Weka.

Most of them have characteristic features like black stripes on their wings and tail feathers.

They all have pointed solid bills, which can vary in color from grey to pink. They have sturdy dinosaur-like legs and glistening red eyes.

These charismatic birds are known to have a reputation for stealing food and small items.

They, however, make up for it by playing a role as a pest controller because they prey on rats and mice.

Wekas are also known to give out loud calls as a pair at dawn or sunset. Their breeding season lasts from late winter to early summers.

Some may breed multiple times per year, while others only do it once in a few years.

Wekas are very clever and intuitive and have been reported to find their way back to their original habitat after being taken away to far-off places.

Their population keeps fluctuating as they are highly susceptible to climate changes resulting in droughts.


Kakapo (Strigopshabroptilus) is another bird found in New Zealand.


These large flightless, ground-dwelling parrots have green feathers mottled with black and yellow spots.

Kakapo are the only flightless parrots and the heaviest, weighing approximately 3-8 lbs.

One of their most striking features is disc-like facial feathers, as seen in owls, so they are also called Owl Parrots.

Despite having the softest feather, these delightful parrots are very strong. Their strength lies in their legs. They can even use their legs to climb trees.

They also make good use of their wings as parachutes to get back down on the forest ground from a tree. Being a herbivore, these skills are of great value to obtain food.

Kakapos have a very long life span of around 40-80 years, making them one of the longest-lived birds. They breed in the season of summer or autumn but only in the years when food supply is present in abundance. Even then, less than half of the clutch is fertile.

This has made it even more difficult to save them from extinction.

They are critically endangered, with only about 200 of them left across all of New Zealand. Conservation attempts are being made by using artificial insemination now.


The Takahe (Porphyriohochstetteri), a bird with bright exotic plumage, was once thought to be extinct.


This magnificent bird, a conservation icon, was rediscovered in 1948 by Geoffrey Orbell, a New Zealand doctor and keen bushwalker. It was confined to the wild of the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland.

This flightless bird is the largest amongst the Rails family, with an average standing height of around 20 inches.

It has a bright blue and green plumage with a contrasting red bill. The legs are also red and turn orange underneath.

They were initially distributed throughout the South Island and hence, are also known as South Island Takahe.

Few years after the rediscovery, some of the Takahe birds were translocated by the Department of Conversation (DOC) under the Takahe Recovery Program.

At present, they are 400 in number distributed between Fiordland, restoration sites, captive display, and breeding sites.

Takahes can survive in harsh alpine conditions and feed on alpine grass species like snow tussock.

They breed in late October-January at high altitudes and in September at low altitudes. They lay a second clutch in case the first one fails.

Male and female both take equal part in incubation and rearing.

In the national park of Fiordland, domestic deers have been posing a significant threat.

Measures have been taken to continue to conserve Takahe, and plans have been made to move them to a predator-free site.

Lord Howe Woodhen

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus Sylvestris), also known as Lord Howe Rail, is another bird that belongs to the Rail family.

Lord Howe Woodhen

This bird is endemic to Lord Howe Island off the Australian coast. 15 different species of Woodhen could be identified when it was first discovered in the late 1780s.

During the mid-1960s, they were on the brink of extinction. However, with successful conservation and breeding programs, 6 out of the 15 Woodhen species were able to survive.

Lord Howe Woodhenis a small-sized bird, olive-brown in color. It has red beady eyes, and the beak makes a slight downward curve at the tip.

It can survive in many different types of habitats ranging from low-lying palm forests to mountain tops.

Woodhens feed on a variety of insects and invertebrates like earthworms. They breed in the seasons of Spring and Summer.

In one clutch, it can produce up to 4 eggs. Even though only around 200 woodhens are found on the island at present, their population has reached a stable graph.

Falkland Steamer Duck

The Falkland steamer duck (Tachyeresbrachypterus) is also known as the Logger Duck to the locals.

Falkland Steamer Duck

There are four species of steamer ducks. Only one out of the four species can fly, and the rest are all flightless.

Two species of steamer ducks are endemic to the Falkland Islands. One is Cobb Wren, and the other is a Falkland steamer.

Falkland steamers are large ducks, with the male being even larger than the females. Males can, in fact, be regarded as one of the largest ducks in the world.

Female heads are brown in color, while males’ heads are paler, ranging from grey to white.

As the name suggests, these ducks are very good at swimming. They can use their tiny wings and legs to help them run across the surface of the water.

Their diet consists of a variety of marine animals. They can even dive deeper into the water to get to the seabed foraging for food.

When it comes to nesting, they look for a hollow space on the ground and line it with grass and feathers. 4-8 eggs are laid at a time, and the female does incubation alone.

Falkland steamer ducks are known to engage in brutal fights when their territories are encroached by neighboring birds.

It can be a vicious sight as their fights can last up to 20 minutes, so they really aren’t the ones to mess with.

Campbell Island Teal

Campbell Island Teal (Anas nesiotis) is another bird from New Zealand. This flightless bird is endemic to the Campbell Islands. It belongs to the family of Dabbling Ducks.

Campbell Island Teal

This nocturnal bird was believed to have become extinct in the 1800s after the introduction of rats on the island.

Then almost a century later, they were discovered again on the island of Dent as this island remained free of their predator, rats.

Eleven ducks were then taken away and were allowed to breed in captivity. It was not an easy task, initially, owing to their wild nature.

Around 50 birds were reintroduced in Campbell island after successfully eradicating their predator.

Amongst the three brown plumaged birds found in New Zealand, Campbell Teal is the smallest in size. As seen in all duck families, both males and females have different colors of feathers.

Their diet in the wild is not known, but they are expected to be omnivorous.

These birds also pair for life and are incredibly territorial. Their breeding seasons slightly vary depending on their habitat.

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