10 Badass Birds

We all know birds are pretty, little things with their sweet songs, delicate wings and fluffy feathers. Birds are associated with love and freedom and they spend their time close to humans interacting with them in the most delightful way.

However, not all birds live up to these stereotypes. Here are 10 birds you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with.




Cassowaries, according to the Guinness Book of Records, are the world’s most dangerous birds. Cassowaries are large flightless birds that live in the rain forests of Australia. They are capable of delivering fatal blows with their feet and their claws are like daggers capable of slicing you. Despite this the cassowary is an endangered species.




Tales of seagulls attacking humans have been well documented in the UK press. In Brighton, East Sussex, a woman was left bloodied and dazed by a seagull and a vicar in Bodmin, Cornwall, resorted to wearing a hard hat to church after seagulls began dive-bombing his congregation.

Golden Eagle


Golden Eagles

Golden eagles are capable of carrying weights of up to 2 kg and have been known to pick up tortoises and carry them off before dropping from a height so that their shell breaks and they can get at the flesh. The Greek philosopher Aeschylus was supposedly killed by an eagle dropping a tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a rock. And in Mongolia the Kyrgyz people use golden eagles to hunt wolves.



In London’s St James’ Park a pigeon was gobbled up by a pelican while visitors watched on aghast. But pigeons are not the only thing pelicans will swallow whole. As well as their regular diet of fish they have also been known to eat gulls, ducks, cormorants, terns and penguins.




The ostrich is the world’s largest bird and with a top running speed of 30 mph can easily outrun a human. If cornered it can kick with its powerful legs. In 1997 a South African woman was kicked to death by an ostrich and in 2000 a Norwegian ostrich breeder suffered a crushed rib cage and punctured lung after an ostrich attack. They have also been known to kill hyenas and lions.

Shrike Larder



Shrikes are not usually able to catch birds in flight so instead will fly over their victims and dive down on them stunning them with a powerful blow to the back. The smaller bird will fall to the ground with the shrike immediately following and if the prey is not yet dead will bite through the vertebrae at the base of the neck. The shrike will then fly away with its bird and take it to its larder, a thorny shrub or barbed wire fence where it will impale it. They have also been known to hang their victims from the fork of a tree branch, either eating them straight away or keeping it for later.




Vultures are known for feeding off the rotting carcasses of animals. Most vultures have an acute sense of smell in order for them to locate dead animals except the black vulture. Instead the black vulture will wait for a turkey vulture to locate the meat and then chase the turkey vulture away. Vultures have been known to attack newborn calves when they are too young to defend themselves by pecking out their eyes.




Cuckoos perform one of nature’s cruelest tricks; laying their eggs in another bird’s nest and duping them into raising their young. The female cuckoo will first push one of the eggs out of the nest and may visit up to 50 nests in one breeding season. Baby cuckoos clearly take after their mother by disposing of the competition by kicking any chicks or remaining eggs out of the nest once it is hatched. The cuckoo chick will be a much larger bird than its host and makes a rapid begging call that sounds like a brood of host chicks. The visual stimulus of the baby cuckoo’s gape is enough to fool the host bird into feeding the cuckoo.




Although there are no confirmed reports of a swan attacking and killing a human directly, you probably remember being told as a child that a swan can break a man’s arm. However, although a swan will chase you, peck you and fly at you if threatened, there are no confirmed reports of a swan ever having broken a human’s arm. In 2009 a swan in Cambridge was nicknamed ‘Mr Asbo’ after it started targeting rowers on the River Cam and in 2012 a swan attacked a man in a kayak on Bay Colony Pond in Des Plaines, Illinois, who fell out of the boat and drowned.




Keas are a species of parrot found in forest and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. Keas are known as ‘the clown of the mountain’ due to their inquisitiveness and have been known peck and carry away items of clothing or to pull apart rubber parts of cars. One man reported that his passport was stolen by a Kea. Since the 1800s it has been known that Keas will attack sheep but until recently it was thought that they would only attack sick or injured sheep that they thought were dead. However, in 1993 it was proved that Keas will attack and feed on healthy sheep. Video footage shows the Kea using its powerful curved beak and claws to rip through the layer of wool and eat the fat from the back of the animal.

Birds in your inbox

Sign up for the latest news and updates

Gifts, bird care, books  & more

Most popular

More reading