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Birds with Long Tails: Mesmerizing Display of Elegance

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Mar 19th, 2024
long tailed bird - featured image

In the realm of avian wonder, few features captivate as much as the birds with long tails. These majestic creatures possess tail feathers that extend far beyond their bodies, creating a striking visual spectacle as they glide through the skies.

Below, we explore the most fascinating birds with tails longer than their bodies that are sure to capture your attention. From African bird species to those found in South America's Amazon jungle, we'll find out more about them all.

What's a long tail bird?

Birds with long feather tails are some of the most beautiful and impressive creatures in the avian world. But, what makes them "long tail birds?". Well, these birds have feathered tails that are longer than the rest of their body.

The long tails of these birds not only serve as a means of balance during flight but also play a significant role in attracting mates and establishing dominance.

A bird's long tail feathers can be used for a variety of purposes, from attracting mates to aiding in flight.

1. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

The scissor-tailed flycatcher is a bird that is native to North and Central America. Its long feather tails are almost as long as its body and are used to help the bird fly and maneuver in the air. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is also known for its unusual curled tail feathers, which help it to catch insects in mid-air.

2. White-throated Magpie Jay

The white-throated magpie jay is a bird that is native to Central America. It has a distinctive tail with two long, violet feathers that can be up to 3 times the length of its body.

White-throated Magpie Jay

During the breeding season, the male magpie jay uses its amazing feather tails to attract a mate. The male then engages in various movements, such as spreading and closing his feather tail rapidly, fanning them out, and shaking them vigorously.

3. Long-tailed Widowbird

Long-tailed Widowbird

The long-tailed widowbird is a bird species that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. The male of the species has the longest tail feathers of any bird in relation to its body size, with tail feathers that can be up to 18 inches long.

Similar to other birds with long feather tails, only the males have such long tails. They use them to attract females during the breeding season.

4. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

The greater racket-tailed drongo is a bird species that is native to South and Southeast Asia. This bird has two long outer feathered tails that are shaped like rackets, with small feathers attached to the sides of the racket.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

The male drongo uses its impressive and distinctive tail feathers to attract a mate. But also, the bird utilizes its long tail feathers to intimidate other males. This is done to establish dominance during territorial disputes and breeding season.

Birds with long tails molt their tail feathers gradually, usually one or two at a time. This allows them to maintain their ability to fly and maneuver while their tails are regrowing.

5. Long-tailed Glossy Starling

glossy starling

The Long-tailed Glossy Starling, scientifically known as Lamprotornis caudatus, is a species of starling native to various parts of Africa. It is known for its stunning plumage and long, elegant tail.

The Long-tailed Glossy Starling is a medium-sized bird with glossy and iridescent plumage. The male bird has a vibrant mix of blue, purple, and green colors on its body. The female, on the other hand, has a slightly duller coloration.

Unlike many other birds with long tails, both sexes have long, graduated tail feathers that give them a distinctive and elegant appearance.

6. Red-billed Streamertail

The red-billed streamertail is a bird type that is native to Jamaica. This bird has a long, forked tail with distinctive tail feathers that are used during courtship displays to attract a mate. The male streamertail has two long, violet tail feathers that can be up to 3 times the length of its body.

Red-billed Streamertail

The Red-billed Streamertail is an agile flyer, capable of hovering in mid-air and flying backward. The males are known for their territorial behavior and defending feeding territories. They also perform impressive aerial displays. The bird flies in U-shaped patterns and produces distinctive buzzing sounds with their wings.

7. Superb Bird of Paradise

The superb bird of paradise is a bird that is native to New Guinea. The male of the species has a long, straight tail with distinctive feathered tails that are used during courtship displays to attract a mate. The female has a much shorter tail.

The male Superb Bird of Paradise is the epitome of natural artistry. It has a velvety black plumage with iridescent blue-green highlights on its breast and head.

Superb Bird of Paradise

However, what truly sets this bird apart is its extravagant plumage and elaborate courtship ritual. During mating season, the male transforms into a mesmerizing display of colors and shapes.

8. Paradise Whydah

The paradise whydah is a bird type that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. The male has long, black tail feathers that are used to attract females during the breeding season.

Paradise Whydah

During non-breeding season, the male loses all but four of its tail feathers, making it much less impressive. The loss of the long tail feathers during the non-breeding season is a natural process called molting.

During molting, birds replace their old and worn-out feathers with new ones. This allows them to maintain their plumage in optimal condition for various purposes such as flight, insulation, and camouflage.

9. Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

The long-tailed tit is a small bird that is native to Europe and Asia. This bird has a long tail that is almost as long as its body, which helps it to balance while perched on branches and twigs. The long-tailed tit is also known for its distinctive black and white head and pinkish-brown body.

10. Long-tailed Sylph

Found in the cloud forests of the Andes in South America, the Long-tailed Sylph is known for its exceptionally long and elegant tails. The male has elongated central tail feathers that extend well beyond its body, forming a dramatic display during courtship.

Long-tailed Sylph

This Long-tailed Sylph has one of the longest tails among hummingbirds. These feathers have a metallic blue-green sheen, creating a captivating sight as the bird hovers in mid-air.

11. Long-tailed Manakin

The long-tailed manakin, found in Central and South America, is renowned for its remarkable long tail, which is longer in proportion to its body than any other bird. The male of this species has just four tail feathers, with two vibrant violet feathers extending far beyond the rest.

Long-tailed Manakin

These birds perform complex courtship dances, using their longer tails to attract mates. The male manakins meticulously choreograph their movements, combining hops, leaps, and acrobatic displays with their exceptional tail feathers.

12. Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. This bird has long, iridescent green tail feathers that are used during courtship displays to attract a mate. The feathered tails of the male are longer than those of the female.

It is renowned for its striking and vibrant plumage, making it one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

Conservation organizations are working to protect the Resplendent Quetzal and its habitat. Measures include establishing protected areas, promoting sustainable tourism, and raising awareness about the bird's ecological importance.

The Reasons Behind Long Tail Feathers

Birds have evolved various adaptations and features over time to enhance their survival and reproductive success. In the case of long tailed birds, there are several reasons why this characteristic may have developed.

It's important to note that not all bird types have long tails, and the presence of long tails is specific to certain groups or lineages. The evolution of longer tails in birds is a result of complex interactions between natural and sexual selection.

bird with long tail - reason behind it

Also, ecological factors have influenced flight performance, reproductive success, and communication within a particular species or group. We discuss these reasons in detail below.

Courtship and Sexual Selection

In many bird species, males with long and elaborate tails are more attractive to females during courtship displays. These long tails serve as visual signals of the male's health, genetic quality, and ability to survive and reproduce successfully.

Females often prefer males with longer tails, leading to sexual selection and the evolution of increasingly longer feather tails.

Display and Communication

Birds with long feather tails use them as a means of communication and display. During courtship rituals and territorial displays, males may fan out their tails, creating visually striking patterns and movements to attract mates or establish dominance.

The elaborate tail displays can indicate the male's fitness, strength, and ability to defend resources or territory.

Flight Control and Agility

Some bird species with longer tails use them for precise flight control and maneuverability. The tail feathers act as rudders, helping the bird make quick turns, stabilize flight, and navigate through dense vegetation or tight spaces. Examples of such birds include certain birds of prey, swallows, and swifts.

long-tailed bushtit on flight

Species Recognition and Camouflage

In certain bird families, long tails play a role in species recognition and camouflage. The distinct tail shape, patterns, or coloration can help individuals of the same species recognize and distinguish each other.

Additionally, some birds with long tails may use them as a form of camouflage, blending in with their surroundings by positioning their tails in specific ways or using them to break up their body outline.

Conclusion

In conclusion, birds with long feather tails are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures in the avian world. Their amazing tail feathers can be used for a variety of purposes, from attracting mates to aiding in flight.

Whether it's the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the white-throated magpie jay, or the resplendent quetzal, these birds are sure to capture your attention. Their long tail beauty will leave you in awe of their natural beauty.

FAQs

Why do some bird species have long tails?

Birds have longer tails for a variety of reasons, including aiding in flight, balancing while perched on branches and twigs, and attracting mates during the breeding season.

Are all long-tailed birds male?

No, not all birds with long tails are male. However, in some bird families, such as the long-tailed widowbird and paradise whydah, only the males have long tails. These are used to attract females during the breeding season.

Do all birds with long tails have the same type of tail feathers?

No, different bird species have different types of tail feathers. Some have long, straight tail feathers, while others have forked or racket-shaped tail feathers.

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