What comes to mind when you think of a white bird? A swan, heron, or crane? These are just a few of the most easily recognized white birds in the United States. In the wild, there are several types of pure white birds that aren’t likely to be seen at your bird feeder. To learn about 15 different types of white birds that live in North America, keep reading.
15 TYPES OF WHITE BIRDS
Birds that are virtually totally white are somewhat rare, however other birds have some white in their plumage. The majority of these all-white birds dwell in snowy climates near fresh or saltwater. These birds’ white feathers help them blend in with their surroundings.
1. ROCK PTARMIGAN
Scientific name: Lagopus muta
The upper regions of Alaska and Canada are home to this little omnivorous bird. In the open plains of these frigid areas, it makes its home on rocky outcroppings between ice and snow. Rock Ptarmigans are virtually pure white throughout the majority of the year, blending in with the snow’s hue.
They molt three times during the summer! The birds are distinguished from other ptarmigans by doing this to attract mates. Molting for the first time into pink for courting, then molting completely into brown breeding plumage before finally reverting to all white in the autumn.
2. AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN
Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
This common bird can be found all over the coasts of the United States. Clapping of a pelican’s beak is a must-have component of any trip to the sea.
The southern coasts of the United States, especially Florida, the Gulf Coast, and Texas, as well as Southern California, are home to the American White Pelican during winter. The northern Rockies, as well as central Canada’s plains, are home to them during the summer.
The pouch on the bottom half of their beak expands to collect food, which they swallow in one gulp, making Pelicans stand out. To catch fish, their favorite food, they frequently swim in groups.
3. CATTLE EGRET
Cattle Egrets prefer dry land to water, and like to forage for insects, unlike their other egret relatives. To take advantage of the insects disturbed by the large animals while grazing, they are known to hang around cattle fields.
These little egret species may be found all over the southern United States and Mexico, and they are the tiniest of the egrets. They go as far north as Kansas and Missouri, and as far west as southern California.
Adults have pale golden feathers across their head, breast, and back throughout the non-breeding season, and nearly all white during breeding.
4. GREAT EGRET
Scientific name: Ardea alba
Most of South America is home to the Great Egret, however it prefers to stay in Florida and the warmer US coasts further north. Summers are spent in the Midwest, as well as the Pacific Northwest.
Except for its bright yellow beak and dark black legs, this water-loving bird is completely white. They stab their head down to catch prey while foraging in standing water.
When the Great Egret flies between wetland regions, look for it. They tuck in their long, slender neck while they fly, but not their legs.
5. WHITE IBIS
Scientific name: Eudocimus albus
The White Ibis is recognized by its dark pink legs and beak, as well as its black wingtips on an otherwise white body, which is native to the southern coasts of the United States, Caribbean, and coastal Mexico.
Unlike herons and egrets, their bill is bent downwards. Because of this, they can forage with their head down and beak in the substrate, looking for prey in mud and wet sand along the water’s edge. In the morning, on a wet lawn, you might see these birds!
6. TUNDRA SWAN
Scientific name: Cynus columbianus
The Tundra Swan is used to frigid temperatures and harsh winds, and is native to the northern central United States and Central Canada up to the Arctic Circle. The little white swan is North America’s smallest swan, with a long, elegant neck that distinguishes it from geese.
In the air, spot tundra swans travel in V-formation and roost at night in open water. From a distance, their cries may sound like dogs baying or other yelps.
7. TRUMPETER SWAN
Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator
Thanks to childhood books about a Trumpeter Swan who learns to play the trumpet, this bird is commonly recognized by non-birders in the United States. Trumpeter Swans, on the other hand, are known for their trumpet-like cries, which provide all the trumpet they need in real life. The Trumpeter Swan has a straight upper beak and a more rounded back than the Tundra Swan.
The trumpeter swans prefer to live in isolated areas of the United States’ northern and central west, particularly around the Great Lakes. From Northern California to Alaska, they also call the Pacific coast home.
8. SNOWY OWL
Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
Even before Harry Potter, snowy owls were a popular bird. They are a popular choice due to their white coloration and yellow eyes. These creatures blend in beautifully with the arctic tundra where they dwell thanks to their coloring. Females have dark barring across their body except for their face, whereas males are completely white or include a few brown markings.
They travel south to winter in Alaska, Canada, and several states along the United States’ northern border after spending the summer in the arctic. They may have an “irruptive” year where they go farther south into the United States on occasion. It may be seen as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma, if you’re a lucky birdwatcher.
9. SNOW BUNTING
Scientific name: Plectrophenax nivalis
Snow buntings lay their eggs in caves and crevices deep inside the arctic. Females have more brown streaks and breeding males have a snowy white body and head with black on their wings.
They migrate south to Canada and the northern half of the United States during the non-breeding season. Their head, shoulders, chest, and back were covered in rusty brown feathers during this time, making them look less white. Where they prefer to forage among cut crop fields and beach / lakeshores, this coloring helps them blend in perfectly with the ground.
10. SNOWY EGRET
Scientific name: Egretta thula
The snowy egret and the Great Egret appear to be very similar at first glance. They do have a lot in common on the map, which can be found all throughout South America, Florida, and coastal regions of Mexico and the Southern United States. Between the months of June and September,
The Little Egret has yellow feet and a black beak, whereas the Great Egret has brown feet. They develop long, lanky white plumes on their back, neck, and head during the breeding season.
Snowy Egrets were hunted heavily until protective laws were finally established throughout the late 1800s, and these plumes were highly coveted for use in hats and fashion. Fortunately, their population has increased.
11. ROYAL TERN
Scientific name: Thalasseus maximus
A Royal Tern may be seen along the US coastlines on a regular basis. The Royal tern is easily recognized by its flat head and sharp bright orange beak, which can be found along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts.
12. ELEGANT TERN
Scientific name: Thalasseus elegans
The Royal tern and the Elegant tern are both elegant birds, but they differ in a few ways. The Elegant tern is only found along Mexico’s Pacific coast, in California and Oregon.
Second, these waterbirds are practically completely white and gray. They have a black crest on their head, which hangs more back than front of the neck like the Royal tern does. Lastly, the Elegant tern’s beak is thinner, more delicate, and slanted slightly downward.
They prefer to forage and nest on sandbars and calm lagoons. In North America, there are a number of tern species, with the majority having similar coloration and requiring close study to distinguish them!
13. IVORY GULL
Scientific name: Pagophila eburnea
The Ivory gull takes the prize among seagulls, despite the fact that most have a lot of white on their body. Adults have black legs and a yellow-tipped beak, and they are completely white throughout. They have been seen in the United States on rare occasions, despite the fact that they are not frequently found outside of their native habitat in the high arctic.
In reality, they are only 130 miles from the North Pole, which is located so far north that they have been discovered!
14. SNOW GOOSE
Scientific name: Anser caerulescens
With black wingtips, pink legs, and a beak, the Snow Goose is completely white. In addition, there is a variant with plumage that is partly or fully dark. This variation is known as the “blue morph.” They’re easiest to spot during the winter, when they may be discovered near bodies of water and open fields across the United States. They breed high up in the Arctic, much as many other white birds on our list do.
They migrate in huge flocks, making a honk-like call that can be heard for miles. Before you see them, you’ll most likely hear them flying overhead.
15. WHOOPING CRANE
Scientific name: Grus americana
The Whooping Crane, a well-known white bird that lives in a narrow habitat corridor in the American Midwest, is a severely endangered waterbird species. It has a limited range of just a few hundred birds and can be found from Texas to central Canada.
Northwestern Canada was the birthplace of its breeding colony. The population of wild birds in Texas has shown to be benefitted by the restoration of wintering grounds, which now numbers over 300. In comparison to the 23 that were found in the wild in the 1940s, this is a big step backward.