25 Elegant White Birds Around the World (With Pictures)

White birds impress not only through their pure plumage color but also their way of life.

From gyrfalcons to snow buntings and smews, these flying creatures are easy to spot, but this doesn’t mean you can see them just about anywhere.

When spotting a white bird, your mind immediately jumps to serenity, sophistication, and happiness.

White symbolizes light and the good in the world, so there’s no wonder many superstitions surround these beautiful avians.

However, this article doesn’t discuss superstitions; instead, it tries to discover how small and big white birds live and thrive.

Perhaps by finding out about such things, you can determine why there are so many beliefs and myths surrounding these gorgeous flying creatures.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the article!

Small and Big White Birds Around the World

  • Cattle Egrets
  • Mute Swans
  • White Terns
  • Smews
  • White-Bellied Sea Eagles
  • Tundra Swans
  • Red-Billed Tropicbirds
  • Snow Goose
  • Ivory Gulls
  • White Cockatoos
  • Little Egrets
  • White Ibises
  • American Pekins
  • Royal Spoonbills
  • Northern Gannets
  • Snowy Egrets
  • Wood Storks
  • Trumpeter Swans
  • American White Pelicans
  • White-Tailed kites
  • White Doves
  • Snow Buntings
  • Snowy Owls
  • Great White Egrets
  • Gyrfalcons

Cattle Egrets

white and yellow cattle egret

 

Cattle egrets are stocky herons of 18-22 inches in length. They weigh 9 ½ to 18 ounces, having a wingspan of 34 ½ to 38 inches. Their posture is bent, and they have a robust and relatively short neck compared to other egret species. The non-breeding cattle egret is mostly all-white with a yellow beak and legs that are grayish yellow. During the breeding season, they grow golden, yellowish feathers around their chest, back, and head.

Native to southern Spain and Africa, the cattle egret is also found around North America and Eurasia. Additionally, it can be seen in Australia and, to a lesser extent, in South America. Wetlands, forests, and grasslands comprise this white bird’s primary habitat.

Due to their high levels of social interaction, cattle egrets often nest where there are colonies of other small species of herons. They may build their nests in big trees, shrubs, or small trees. The shallow, disorganized nest bowl is created by both parents with twigs and sticks. 2-4 eggs make up the clutches. The eggs incubate for about four weeks.

Cattle egrets consume large insects, particularly grasshoppers, flies, and crickets. They can also eat frogs, moths, and spiders. Sometimes they consume fish and snakes too.

Mute Swans

mute swan in the lake

An adult mute swan is 49-67 inches long, while its wingspan is 79-94 inches. This bird can reach a height of 47 inches. With males weighing an average of 26 pounds and females weighing 33 pounds, mute swans are some of the heaviest big white birds that fly. These birds have their neck and head stained in dirty brown or orange, and their plumage is entirely white.

The versatile mute swan is found in various aquatic environments, from coastal estuaries to urban lakes and agricultural ponds. Couples choose freshwater, saltwater ponds, and brackish water as their nesting locations throughout the Pacific Northwest and from the south of New England to Virginia.

Nesting locations of mute swans can be on a tiny peninsula along a thickly vegetated coastline or on an island that’s small or medium in size. Twigs, cattails, reeds, cordgrasses, rushes, sedges, grasses, bulrushes, and sometimes stones are used as nesting materials. The nest cup may contain decomposing plants.

Swans consume mostly aquatic plants. They also eat the mollusks that cling to the foliage, in addition to having worms, tiny fish, and frogs. These large white-colored birds can live effectively in fields with short-cropped grass, and they also graze in large grassy areas.

White Terns

white tern in the sky
Credit: Drew Avery CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

The white tern is 11-12.9 inches in length. It has a wingspan of 25.9-30.7 inches and weighs 3.5-4.9 ounces. This bird has flawless all-white plumage and is a highly graceful and delicate creature of the sea. From some angles, it seems considerably bigger because of its eyes’ surrounding black rings.

The South Atlantic, Indian Oceans, and the Pacific are all tropical and subtropical breeding grounds for white terns. These aquatic birds forage over deep oceans while living in marine regions, somewhat near any coral breeding vegetation islands. 

White terns never set up a nest. Only an egg is laid by the female per clutch in any appropriate depression nearby.

The white tern eats fish, particularly flying fish, crabs, and squid.

Smews

black and white smew in the water

Smews are birds that are usually 14.9–17.3 inches in length. Their wingspan is 22–27.1 inches, and they weigh 15.8–22.9 ounces. They are medium-sized white birds of the sawbill duck subfamily. Males are entirely white, while females are white only at the neck and throat, resembling the Goldeneye females. In addition, smews also have black wing panels.

Smews are Eurasian species. In autumn and winter, they visit the western Aleutians. Besides, they seldom go on Pribilofs and can be accidentally found in numerous US states, including Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, the Mississippi River Valley, California, or the Great Lakes area. Lakes, rivers, and bays are their preferred environments.

These white birds nest near lakes, rivers, ponds, or other areas with water. They usually use the old nests of woodpeckers or some different types of tree holes.

The smew dives for fish and catches it with its beak. It also often eats aquatic life, plant matter, seeds, tiny fish, crabs, snails, and the pupae or larvae beneath rocks.

Tundra Swans

tundra swan running the shallow water

The typical height of tundra swans is around 3 feet, and their wingspan ranges from 6 to 7 feet. They weigh between 13 and 20 pounds. All the tundra swan’s feathers are white. The base of this bird’s bill often has a patch colored in yellow, but it’s mostly black. The same color black defines its feet and legs too.

Tundra swans are often located close to the shore and lay their eggs in the moist Arctic tundra. They live in slow rivers, shallow lakes, coastal estuaries, and flooded fields, not only during the winter but also when they migrate.

Both males and females construct their nests as a mound with grasses, tundra plants, sedges, moss, and lichens.

The tundra swan, a mostly herbivorous animal, goes for water plants and their roots. However, they’ll also include certain arthropods, shellfish, and worms in their diet.

Red-Billed Tropicbirds

long-tailed red-billed tropicbird
Credit: Mike’s Birds, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

The typical length of the red-billed tropicbird is 35–41 inches, including the 18–22 inches tail streamers. This bird is 19 inches long without the tail streamers, and its wingspan ranges from 39 to 42 inches. It has predominantly white plumage with black patterns on the back and the wings. It also “wears” a black mask that gives it the appearance of a tern. 

The Neotropics, eastern Pacific, Indian seas, and tropical Atlantic all fall within the red-billed tropicbird’s range. This unique seabird is very uncommon to watch from land, yet it can often be spotted close to the shores of rocky islands.

Red-billed tropicbirds use scrapes on cliff faces as nests because this is convenient for takeoff.

This white bird eats squid and fish despite having weak swimming abilities.

Snow Goose

white snow goose in the snow

The snow goose typically weighs 7.1 pounds and measures 31 inches in length, although it may be as heavy as 9.9 pounds. Its wingspan might vary from 53 to 65 inches. Snow geese may live for as long as 17 years. Interestingly, they don’t breed until they’re 3 or 4 years old.

The Arctic and the high Arctic Islands are home to the snow goose, which spends the winter in coastal saline bays and marshes, freshwater marshes, wet grasslands, farms, and fields.

Snow geese set up their nests close to streams or ponds in the subarctic and the arctic tundra. The female selects a nest location with the male’s help. This place is usually hidden by flora, rocks, or tiny bushes. Materials used for building nests include marine lyme grass, birch, twigs, leaves, eelgrass, sea-lyme grass, willow, and seaweed.

The snow goose consumes seeds, roots, and leaves of several wild grass species, as well as bulrushes, sedges, horsetail, and other plants.

Ivory Gulls

ivory gull on a wooden fence

The ivory gull has the most eye-catching and purest white plumage in addition to its black legs. The female looks almost identical to the male, and all adults are about 17.3 inches in length, weighing 14.1–17.6 ounces. 

The ivory gull lives in Greenland, Eurasia, and the northern parts of North America, breeding in the Arctic. It also inhabits the High Arctic’s most northernmost regions. The bird can often be seen on ice margins and pack ices, particularly around headlands and islands.

The nesting locations of ivory gulls are very adaptable. These beautiful white-colored birds use islands, high mountains, and cliffs located further inland for nesting. As materials for building, they use algae, driftwood, down, lichen, feathers, grass, seaweed, and mud. e

Ivory gulls consume marine invertebrates and fish found near pack ice places. Additionally, they scavenge for the remains of polar bears and human hunters.

White Cockatoos

yellow-crested white cockatoo

The white cockatoo is around 18 inches in length, weighing 28 ounces for large males and 14 ounces for smaller females. Typically, the male has a larger head and beak when compared to the female, whereas their eyes could be either brown or black.

White cockatoos live in the Indonesian Maluku Islands called Bacan, Halmahera, Kasitura, Ternate, Mandioli, and Tidore. They inhabit open forests and woods, agricultural regions, and mangrove swans. These birds are famous for frequenting wetlands.

The white cockatoo builds its nest 16-100 feet above ground in big tree cavities. It uses wood shavings, sawdust, or other appropriate materials that have decomposed non-toxically.

Typical foods consumed by white cockatoos include a variety of nuts, fruits, and seeds, including durian, langsat, rambutan, and papaya. They can also consume insects.

Little Egrets

little egret in the shallow water

Cattle egrets are, despite their name, big-sized egret species of 21-26 inches in length. They weigh 12 – 19 ounces and have a wingspan of 35 – 42 inches. Their legs and beaks are black, while their feet are pale yellow. 

The little egret can be seen on every continent, except for South and North America. Individuals that live in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia are all-year-round residents. On the other hand, little egrets that occupy Europe are only winter visitors. Being semi-aquatic birds, little egrets prefer ponds, lagoons, flooded lands, marshes, and canals, among other environments.

Like every other egret species, little egrets nest in colonies together with other birds. More often than not, their nest is located in trees or shrubs built of various sticks and twigs.

Little egrets are primarily piscivores (fish-eating animals), followed by mollusks, worms, and insects. 

White Ibises

white ibis standing near shrubs

Male white ibises weigh between 1.9 and 2.7 pounds, while females weigh between 1.3 and 1.8 pounds. Both adult male and female birds have a length range of 20.8 to 27.5 inches and a wingspan of 35.4 to 41.3 inches.

Northern, South-Western, and Eastern Australia are home to significant populations of white ibises. In the United States, these white birds can be found in Texas, Florida, and Michigan. They congregate in flocks around coastal fresh and saltwater, brackish marshes, mudflats, rice fields, lagoons, and mangrove swamps.

Nesting locations of white ibises are typically 2 to 15 feet above water or ground and sometimes in mangroves, thickets, and trees. Nesting materials are stolen from other couples’ nests. These materials include sticks or, less often, reeds and cordgrass.  

The white ibis’ food includes fish, crayfish, crabs, insects, frogs, and snakes.

American Pekins

American pekin on the green grass

American Pekins stand at around 20 inches tall. The male is usually 10 pounds, whereas the female could reach 9 pounds. When at the age of 7 weeks, Pekins have all of their feathers and are at 90% of their mature weight. However, it takes them 16 to 28 weeks to attain full development.

These white-feathered ducks have the most prominent presence in the United States, but they can be found almost all over the world too. Their habitat is ponds, industrial and private farms, or parks.

Although American Pekins don’t have a problem laying their eggs just about anywhere, they don’t mind when humans set up nesting places for them.

The primary source of nutrition for these ducks should be commercial feed made specifically for geese and ducks. However, they also consume worms, leafy greens, non-citrus fruit, peas, and maize. 

Royal Spoonbills

royal spoonbill standing in the water

The Royal spoonbill can reach around 31.4 inches in height. It weighs between 3 to 4.5 pounds, and its wingspan is about 47.2 inches. This bird has lengthy legs because it wades in the water.

Royal spoonbills are found all over Northern and Eastern mainland Australia. They inhabit intertidal mud flats, shallow salt and freshwater marshes, and wet grasslands. Additionally, they’ll take advantage of man-made wetlands like sewage lagoons, salt flats, reservoirs, and dams.

Twigs and sticks are used to set up a sturdy nest in the shape of a bowl. The Royal spoonbill lines this structure with aquatic plants and leaves. Nesting locations could be in tree crowns above water bodies or among tall rushes and reeds.

Carnivores, these big white birds consume fish, although they could also eat crabs and insects.

Northern Gannets

northern gannet flying in the air

The biggest gannet and seabird present on the western side of the Palearctic, the northern gannet has a wingspan of 67-71 inches, is 34 ½ -39 ½ inches long, and weighs 5-8 pounds. Adult northern gannets are snow white (apart from black-colored wingtips), while juveniles are brownish. This big white bird can descend to the ocean at 60 mph, from a height of 98.4 feet.

Northern gannets breed at the Gulf Stream beaches on the North Atlantic ocean’s both sides. They are present in the Saint Lawrence Gulf and the Canadian east coast’s offshore islands. Their preferred habitat is cliffs with ocean views or tiny rocky islands.

The northern gannet usually builds its nest within 2-3 feet apart from other gannet nests. The nest structure is a mound of grass, soil, and seaweed, and it’s kept together by the male’s droppings.

Northern gannets consume fish almost all the time, but they could also have shrimp and some squid.

Snowy Egrets

snowy egret standing on the rock near water

Snowy egrets are 22.1–26.0 inches in length. They can weigh up to 13.1 ounces, and their wingspan is 39.4 inches. The male is only a bit larger than the female. The specie was almost wiped from the face of the Earth in late 1800 because of hunting.

North, South, and Central America are all regions with snowy egrets. In South America, these medium-sized white birds can be found in Argentina and Chile. They are also present year-round in the West Indies and Florida. Their usual environments are wetlands, including marshes, riverbanks, salt marshes, lakesides, estuaries, and pools.

Made of twigs and reeds, the nest of the snowy egret is flat and shallow. More often than not, it gets built in trees, shrubs, or at the ground level, lined with tiny rushes and twigs.

The diet of a snowy egret consists of fish, crayfish, shrimp, fiddler crabs, tiny lizards, snails, baby frogs, aquatic and terrestrial insects, or aquatic plants.

Wood Storks

big white wood stork on a metal fencing

Wood storks are giant birds with white plumage covering their long bodies (34-45 inches). Their wings are also lengthy, with an average wingspan of 55-71 inches. Males weigh between 5.5-7.3 pounds, while the average weight of females is 4.4–6.2 pounds. This bird resembles herons, as it has a long neck and long legs. However, unlike herons, the wood stork has a black, unfeathered, scary-looking head.

Wood storks breed throughout most of Central and South America but also in the Caribbean. They like tropical and subtropical areas. In the US, you can spot them around Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Their habitat is mangroves, mixed hardwood swamps, cypress strands/doms, and sloughs.  

Wood storks often build nests in trees that are flooded at 1-3 feet by water from sticks and plants.

Fish, crayfish, frogs, giant insects, mice, and small alligators, are all on the prey items list of wood storks.

Trumpeter Swans

trumpeter swan floating in the water

Although larger trumpeter swan males may approach 5 feet and 11 inches in length, adults typically measure between 4 ft and 6 inches and 5 feet and 5 inches. The average weight of both males and females is 15–30 pounds. Unlike other swan species, this white bird has a black bill.

In northern Alaska, Northwest United States, and Canada, trumpeter swans spawn on wetlands, ice-free coasts, and inland waterways. Non-migratory species have been intentionally introduced to some regions of Oregon. These big aquatic white birds inhabit open water wetlands, rivers, or streams. 

The trumpeter swan usually chooses the location for its nest close to the water. It builds on existing structures, such as beaver dens, muskrat, beaver dams, tiny islands, or artificial platforms. The base of their nest consists of an aquatic plant mound, which can be closed with sedges, grass, or feathers.

Adults primarily consume the leaves, roots, and stems of aquatic plants, but also terrestrial grasses and waste crops throughout the winter. The young have a diet based on tiny invertebrates and insects.

American White Pelicans

closeup photo of american white pelican

A mature American white pelican male weighs 20-33 pounds, while bigger Palaearctic races typically reach about 24 pounds. It is about 69 inches in length, and its bill ranges from 13.7-18.5 inches in size. The specie belongs to the Pelecaniformes order.

The distribution of American white pelicans is all over inland Northern America. With a wing span of 9 feet, they are one of the largest white birds on the continent. White pelicans usually inhabit shallow marshes of islands, and they spend the winter in estuaries, bays, and on the coast.

The American white pelican couple selects a somewhat level area of gravel, dirt, or sand for their nest. Their nests may also be found behind bushes or trees, but only in wooded areas. They use pebbles, dirt, or plant matter to surround the structures.

The American white pelican eats a fish-heavy diet consisting of “rough” fish and salamanders. 

White-Tailed Kites

white-tailed kite soaring in the air

The white-tailed kite is a 14–17 inches long bird with a 35–40 inches wingspan and 8.8–13.4 ounces weight. The bird is primarily white, apart from its shoulders and wingtips (black).

White-tailed kites breed in Argentina and Chile but can be found throughout America and in Africa, Asia, and Europe. However, not too many of them are in the United States. White-tailed kites’ habitats are savannas, open forests, desert grasslands, marshes, partly cleared regions, or cultivated fields. 

The white-tailed kite typically builds its nests in the top third of 10- to 160-feet-tall trees, lining them up with grass, straw-like materials, or weeds. The nest foundation is made from thin twigs and sticks.

The white-tailed kite mostly consumes small animals, yet it can also have birds, insects, and reptiles in rare instances. 

White Doves

purely white dove perched

A medium-sized and plump bird, the white dove measures 11 inches from the tip of its beat to the end of its tail and weighs on average 5.3 ounces. Since groups of white doves are often released for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and public ceremonies, you should have no trouble identifying this species. 

White dove populations that migrate spend the winter in Central America and the Caribbean. They live there all year long and sometimes in Texas or Southern Canada. Their habitats could be town communities, forests of saguaros, mesquite trees, and river woodlands.

The white dove male chooses the nesting location of white doves, which is often on tree limbs or crotches under dense cover. Approximately 6 inches wide and 3.5 inches in height, nests are hefty, shallow, and made from twigs.

Pellets, veggies, seeds, fruit, and sometimes a strange human treat are among the variety of things that white doves prefer to eat.

Snow Buntings

snow bunting perching on a rock

Snow buntings are stocky passerine birds frequently seen resting on trees. As a bunting specie, the snow bunting is rather big and has long wings. It can weigh 1.1-1.6 ounces, whereas its length can reach 5.9 inches, with a wingspan of 11.8 inches. In addition to their white bodies, these birds have black caps, black/brownish wings, and tails. 

The most northern passerine bird species, the snow bunting, frequents Northern Scandinavia, Svalbard, Greenland, the arctic side of Russia, and the most northern areas of North America. It spends its time in open fields, shorelines, grain stubble croplands, and roadsides.  

Snow buntings burrow their nest deep inside crevices or other rock holes. Grass, moss, feathers, and fine grass are used as materials. 

The small white bird consumes insects, spiders, grass seeds, and seeds from blooming plants for food.

Snowy Owls

snowy owl on a tree branch

Characterized by their stunning white plumage -snowy owls are one of a kind. These white raptor birds are 2.1 to 2.4 feet tall, weighing 56 – 104 ounces. Their wingspan is 50 – 57 inches (females tend to be larger).

In this not easy to spot snowy owls as they prefer freezing regions around the North Pole. However, during the non-breeding season, they migrate to some parts of Europe and North America.  

The nest of a snowy owl is on the ground on boulders in the Arctic hummocks. They usually pick higher points for nests in order to have a good view of potential predators. 

Like other owl species, snowy owls are carnivores. They hunt various small animals, such as mice, voles, Article hares, and seabirds.

Great White Egrets

white great egret flying above the water

Great egrets are giant herons with white feathers covering their entire bodies. They can grow to a height of 3.3 feet, and their length ranges from 31-41 inches to 52-67 inches. Their usual body mas may vary from 1.5 to 3.3 pounds. When it comes to their wingspan, this is 51.6-57.1 inches.

Recently, great egrets have migrated from southern Europe to the continent’s northern regions. They have been present in Africa, the Americas, and Asia for some time, so there’s no surprise that you can find them there. Their habitat is mud flats, shorelines, ponds, marshes, lake borders, shallow lagoons on the coast, estuaries, and river banks from forested areas.

The great egret builds its nest 20-40 feet up in trees or 1-4 feet above in shrubs or cattails, above water, and from tiny twigs, sticks, or plant materials. 

Along with fish, great egrets consume aquatic insects, salamanders, crabs, and frogs for food. Grasshoppers and rodents could be on their “shopping” list as well. 

White-Bellied Sea Eagles

white-bellied sea eagle during flight

Male, white-bellied sea eagles weigh 4.0-6.6 pounds and are 26-31 inches long. The females are significantly bigger at 31-35 inches in length and 5.5-9.9 pounds. The wingspan of both sexes is between 5.8-7.2 feet. These birds have white feathers on the belly, neck, and head. Only their wings and inner wing tips are black or dark brown.

From Sri Lanka and India, east through southern China, as well as south via South-East Asia, Wallacea, New Guinea, and Wallacea, the white-bellied sea eagle migrates to Australia. This bird frequents coastal environments and terrestrial wetlands in temperate and tropical areas.

Regular nesting locations for white-bellied sea eagles include lofty trees or human-made pylons. Their nest looks like a deep and large bowl lined with seaweed or grass, and it’s made of twigs and branches.

These white birds of prey primarily consume aquatic creatures, including fish, sea snakes, and turtles. However, they sometimes also eat mammals and other birds.

Gyrfalcons

closeup photo of a white and black gyrfalcon

The size of this type of falcon is comparable to that of the biggest buteos. Males are 1.8-3 pounds in weight, 19-24 inches in length, and have a 43-51 inches wingspan. Females are somewhat more prominent and thicker than males, measuring 20-26 inches in length and weighing 2.6-4.6 pounds. Their wingspan is 49 to 64 inches.

The gyrfalcon can survive in the most hostile environments. It breeds in Greenland, Iceland, Europe, and North America, but only in the subarctic regions. Its habitats in the Southern areas, where it migrates for the winter, are open fields, coasts, dunes, prairies, and shrub steppes. 

Many nesting locations for Gyrfalcons are cliffs or former bird nests, including those of golden eagles and ravens. The nest structure is made of branch debris and dry leaves. 

Being primarily carnivores, the gyrfalcon feeds on other birds and mammals.

Conclusion

As seen above, there are so many big and small white birds with interesting qualities around the globe. The gyrfalcon survives in the harshest environments, whereas the snowy egret made it through the almost annihilation of its species.

This blog post tried to present the most essential info on white birds.

Let’s hope you can identify any bird from the list the next time you see one in person, without thinking too much!

Thank you for reading. If you liked this post, here’s another hot bird topic: Birds That Are Pink.