10 Birds That Look Like Dinosaurs

Birds That Look Like Dinosaurs

Although the existence of dinosaurs vanished from our planet over 65 million years ago, their fascination among people continues to grow even today. And why shouldn’t it? Despite all the research conducted to determine the physical traits and lifestyle of these magnanimous reptiles, there’s still so much we don’t know about them.

It is our fascination for these ancient creatures that have motivated us to create movies, documentaries, toys, and video games around them to experience their presence virtually. But is there a way to see them in reality? Certainly not.

While such a thing is not possible today, the closest we can come to such an experience is by observing extant creatures that resemble them in some way or the other. In our article today, we’ll talk about ten such birds living among us. Are you ready to embark on this journey? Let’s get started!



What is the world's most dangerous bird? | Library of Congress

Cassowaries are a group of large, ratite birds endemic to northeastern regions of Australia and the islands of Indonesia and New Guinea. These tropical birds had a group of four species, one of which became extinct. The remaining three are:

  • Southern or Double-wattled Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)
  • Northern or Single-wattled Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus)
  • Dwarf or Bennet’s Cassowary (Casuarius bennettii)

Because cassowaries are incredible at concealing themselves from humans, none of their extant species have been well-studied. From what we’ve discovered so far, they have blue heads that are typically small in comparison to their bodies (much like emus and ostriches), red eyes, and a long bluish neck.

Their plumage is shiny black in color, with thick, greyish legs that lend them surprising strength and speed. Their feet are three-toed, all of which are adorned with sharp claws.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

While cassowaries’ giant clawed feet lend them similarity to the dinosaurs to some extent, it’s the casque atop their head that’s a true show-stealer.

These casques are placed atop their head, covered with skin, and keep growing with them. While the exact size might be difficult to determine, we’ve found some to grow up to 7 inches.

Although no practical function of these casques is determined, some scientists have a theory that these might serve the purpose of protecting their heads from a collision when they run around in deep forests.

Wondering how these casques are dinosaur-like? Because these casques have been found in the fossils of a prehistoric creature in China: an oviraptorid (bird-like) dinosaur that has been named Corythoraptor jacobsi. Even besides the casque, the similarity between the skeleton of C.jacobsi and cassowaries is uncanny!

Fun Fact : Cassowaries are known to eat their own feces! These frugivores often defecate half-digested fruits, which still have some nutritional value intact. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised (or grossed out) if you see these birdies eating their own or each other’s feces at times.


Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis)

Sandhill Crane - eBird

Named after Nebraska’s Sandhills they commonly inhabit, Sandhill Cranes are a large, fairly social crane species of North America. The adults of this species display sexual dimorphism in size, with the males being heavier than their female counterparts.

Although Sandhill Cranes have overall grey plumage, their wings obtain their faded reddish-brown color by rubbing mud in their feathers while preening. They have a bright red forehead, long, pointed, dark bills, and white cheeks. Their long legs are grey as well.

Sandhill Cranes have an exceptionally long wingspan, measuring between 5-7 feet in length. These birds have also mastered the art of soaring, which is generally only practiced among the raptors.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

Did you know that the fossils of Sandhill Cranes date the earliest among all extant birds? A fossil found in Nebraska (which is their favored habitat even today) is more than 10 million years old.

The similarities between this fossil and Sandhill Cranes are striking, which leads us to believe that these birds have the best chances of co-existing alongside dinosaurs.

Fun Fact : The younger ones of Sandhill Cranes are quite fast learners! Surprisingly enough, these chicks learn to swim just eight hours after they hatch and are ready to leave their nests and live independently from day one. However, they still stick with their parents for up to 10 months. Talk about family values!


Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)

The Hoatzin: A Weird and Wonderful Bird

Also referred to as Reptile bird and Canje Pheasant, Hoatzins are tropical birds that inhabit the swamps, mangroves, and riparian forests of South America.

In terms of appearance, Hoatzins have a lot in common with pheasants. They possess a small head with a spiky crest atop it, dark upper parts, buff-colored underparts, and a sooty-brown tail.

The digestive system of Hoatzins works a lot like that of the ruminants, including a large crop that helps aid the fermentation of their primarily folivore diet. This fermentation releases a foul order, which has led to their alternative name being Stinkbird.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

Did you know that the Hoatzins are the only extant species of their family? What’s even more surprising is the fact that their family, the Opisthocomidae, had seven genera, all of which are extinct today.

In 2015, genetic research conducted on these birds concluded that they branched off from the other genera of their family roughly 64 million years ago, around the time dinosaurs became extinct.

And if that wasn’t evident enough, the claws that the Hoatzin chicks possess on their wings are also found in the fossils of Archaeopteryx, a long-extinct genus of bird-like dinosaurs.

Fun Fact : The Hoatzin chicks possess secret weapons in their wings! Their chicks are born with two wing claws, one on each wing. However, these are not to fight off predators or hunt for prey no. They simply help them climb on trees and navigate their way around branches without the fear of falling off.

Just as they’re about to reach sexual maturity and stop needing these secret claws, they mysteriously disappear. Isn’t that mighty convenient?



Seriema - Wikipedia

Seriemas are large terrestrial birds belonging to the Cariamidae family that inhabit the savannahs and grasslands of South America. Although these long-legged birds were once considered relatives of cranes, upon reassessment, they’ve been found to be closer to the falcons.

Following are the two extant species of Seriemas:

  • Black-legged Seriema (Chunga burmeisteri)
  • Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)

Seriemas have been named after their crest, which is called siriema in the Tupi language. While these birds can fly a short distance, running is their stronger suit.

Seriemas are moderately tall birds with a standing height of 35 inches. They have a small face, small, reddish bills with an erect crest extending from them. Their neck, legs, and tail are all long, except for the short wings that they rarely use.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

The Seriemas are the only two surviving species not only of their family but also of their entire order, which contained seven other families: all of them now extinct.

One of these families was the Terror Birds, a group of large, carnivore, flightless birds that walked on Earth for 60 million years and were supposed extinct roughly a million years ago. This revelation not only makes Seriemas close relatives of the Terror Birds but also of the dinosaurs, whom most species from their order might have walked alongside.

Fun Fact

They might not look like it, but Seriemas are super violent predators! These carnivores tend to smash their prey on the ground or rock to kill them. And when they happen to catch prey too large to swallow whole, they have no problem ripping them into smaller pieces alive.



pelican | Taxonomy, Habitat, Description, & Facts | Britannica

Popular for their large bills with a deep throat pouch attached to the lower mandible, Pelicans are a genus of large aquatic birds with a patchy global distribution. These birds typically inhabit coastal and inland waters where they catch and feed on fish, their primary diet.

Although the family of pelicans was quite dense in the past, only the following eight are extant today:

  • American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
  • Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus)
  • Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
  • Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
  • Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
  • Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens)
  • Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis)
  • Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

These waterbirds have pale plumage, stocky bodies, long necks, short legs, long, fully webbed feet, and short, square-edged tails.

While both sexes of pelicans have identical plumage, they display significant dimorphism in their size, with the males being larger than their female counterparts and possessing longer bills.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

Did you know that the fossils of pelicans date back more than 30 million years? And that’s not even the best part. Their famous gular pouch was also found in the fossils of Ikrandraco, a genus of flying reptiles (pterosaurs) from China.

Researchers have claimed that these pterosaurs must have used their pouch to scoop up food, which is exactly how pelicans hunt for fish. Isn’t the resemblance almost unreal?

Fun Fact : Some Pelicans have bills as long as 20 inches! The longest bills of the Australian Pelicans have been recorded at 50 centimeters (10 inches), which is the longest in all of the avian world. In the pouch attached to their lower mandible, these waterbirds can fill about 3 gallons of water. The most shocking part? Even their belly can hold less than half that amount.


Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)


Also referred to as Whalehead, Shoebills are a vulnerable waterbird species that inhabit the freshwater swamps of Africa. These carnivore birds have a primarily aquatic diet but will also feed on snails and rodents occasionally.

Shoebills are tall birds, with their height extending up to 55 inches, and have a somewhat stork-like body. They have an overall bluish-grey plumage, with darker touches on their flight feathers. While their long, dark legs are just like other waders, their necks are thicker than the latter.

The bills of these birds, which is their most striking feature, are large, bulbous, and hook-ended. They’re straw-colored with several grey markings covering them.

Both sexes of Shoebills have identical plumage and display dimorphism in size, with the males being larger and heavier than their female counterparts.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

A closer examination of Shoebills’ bills has revealed its striking similarity with the facial bone structure of the Velociraptor: a genus of feathered, hollow-boned dinosaurs that inhabited Earth roughly 70 million years ago. It makes one wonder, what more could Shoebills have in common with the giant beasts of ancient times?

Fun Fact : These ambush predators prefer to dwell in areas with poorly oxygenated water. Curious to know why? Well, the fish that live in poorly-oxygenated water bodies would need to come to the water surface for more oxygen frequently, making them an easy target for the Shoebills.



Common Ostrich - eBird

Known for being the heaviest extant birds and laying the largest eggs, Ostriches are quite popular among the ratites. Although the genus that these birds belong to (Struthio) was quite diverse once upon a time, today, only two of them are extant:

  • Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
  • Somali Ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes)

Both these species are endemic to Africa, where they inhabit the Sahel and the savannahs. They have a small head, large eyes, short, pointed bills, long necks, and legs. The color of their plumage distinguishes their sexes; males possess a black plumage, while the plumage of females is dull brown.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

You’d be happy to learn that ostriches have a strong connection with our prehistoric friends (the dinosaurs).

The fossils of Ornithomimus, a genus of ornithomimid dinosaurs from the Mesozoic era, indicate that the body structure of the species belonging to it was eerily similar to the modern-day Ostriches, including a toothless beak, long limbs, hollow bones, large brain, and eyes. In fact, some researchers also claim that these theropods were swift runners.

Fun Fact : The long, thick eyelashes of Ostriches are not just an adorable facial feature; they’re highly functional, too! Because these large ratites inhabit semi-arid regions, sandstorms occur in their surroundings frequently. Under such circumstances, their lashes prevent most of the dust from entering their eyes and protect their vision.


Chickens (Gallus domesticus)

Chicken Breeds for the Small Farm or Backyard Flock

Considered the most common domestic animals in the world, Chickens are a junglefowl species that humans keep both as pets and as a food source (both their meat and eggs).

The fowl birds display significant sexual dimorphism. While both sexes have similar plumage, the plumage of the roosters (adult males) is much brighter and shinier than their female counterparts. They also have pointed neck feathers and long tails, both of which are absent in the hens (adult females).

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

While chickens might not share any visible similarity with any dinosaur, you’d be surprised to learn about what their genetic makeup holds.

In a 2018 study, a tissue found in the bone of Tyrannosaurus rex’s was compared with many modern animals, including alligators and several primates. However, results revealed that the tissue had more in common with chickens than any other animals, including reptiles. What are the odds of that, right?

Fun Fact : While these birds might seem dumb on the surface, they’re quite brainy! The cognitive skills of these birds are comparable to that of dogs. They also have a stellar memory and are able to distinguish hundreds of other chickens; they can often recognize people as well.


Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil)

Helmeted Hornbill trade in Lao PDR - Wildlife Trade Report from TRAFFIC

The Helmeted Hornbills are a critically endangered Asian hornbill species that inhabit the forests of Myanmar, Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula. As their name indicates, these hornbills have a large casque or horn atop their bills.

However, what sets their casque apart is the fact that unlike the hollow casques of other hornbills, Helmeted Hornbills possess a solid one. In fact, it’s so heavy it makes up 10% of their body weight.

Unfortunately, this casque is also the biggest threat to their existence. It is a source of hornbill ivory, a rare carving material for which these birds are hunted and killed illegally and extensively.

Helmeted Hornbills have a shiny black plumage, yellow eyes, large, red bills and casque, and a hairless, leathery throat pouch. The color of this throat patch distinguishes the sex of adults; males have red throat pouches, while females have greenish or bluish ones.

The legs, tail, and rump of these birds is stark white in contrast to the rest of their body. You’ll also notice bold white bands on their black tail.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

While the Helmeted Hornbills might not have any direct link with the dinosaurs, it is their distinguished appearance and vocalization that lends them an ancient beast-like look.

The scariest of all extant hornbill species, Helmeted Hornbills easily stand out due to their leathery throat pouch and bulky casque. Moreover, their barbet-like intermittent calls sound nothing less than maniacal laughter.

Fun Fact : Helmeted Hornbills can hoard food in their gular pouch! These throat pouches can hold a substantial amount of food items, which comes in handy in their breeding months. When the females are sealed within their nests while incubating their eggs, their male partners bring them food stored in this very pouch.


Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)

Canada Goose - eBird

Canada Geese are a large goose species found abundantly in the temperate and arctic regions of North America.

Although Canada Geese have seven subspecies, all varying slightly in size and plumage, they are easily distinguished from most other geese species by their black face and white chinstrap. Their necks are black, too, followed by tan breast, brown upper body, and white underparts.

Both sexes of this species have identical plumage; only the males are considerably larger in size.

Their resemblance to Dinosaurs

Canada Geese share a similar body structure with the prehistoric Vegavis iaai, an extinct bird of the Late Cretaceous period that existed between 68-66 million years ago.

Moreover, researchers have also found syrinx in these extinct birds, which would enable them to produce the same squawking noises as the noisy Canada Geese.

Fun Fact: Canada Geese fly in an energy-efficient style! You must’ve come across their famous V formation during flights. Ever wondered the reason behind it? You’ll be surprised by its scientific efficiency.

In flight, these geese follow a simple rule: each bird flies a little higher than the one in front. The bird at the front edge of the group breaks the headwind to help other birds draft along the airflow, using lesser energy in wing flapping. Furthermore, they also take turns flying at the front to prevent the one in the front from exhaustion. Isn’t that some A-grade teamwork?


Wrapping it up

With this, we’ve come to the end of our article. Today, we’ve learned about ten birds that have come the closest to resembling dinosaurs, be it in their overall appearance, certain physical traits, vocalization, or even their genetic makeup.

Whatever their similarities with our prehistoric friends might be, at the end of the day, they simply offer us a way to experience a nearness to them, which is something we’ve only done virtually so far.

Thanks for reading. This was a fun list to put together, and we hope it is as fun for you to read. If you liked it, feel free to share it with others on social media. Have a nice day!

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