This article was updated in 2021 with larger, higher quality images, plus a couple new photos.
Birds are an acquired taste. But if you happen to like, or at least appreciate how cool birds can be, you’ll recognize that they come in all forms and sizes, with distinct characteristics that often go beyond just color and plumage.
There’s one small group of birds that have followed a separate evolutionary path than most of their cousins. Of the estimated 10,000 different bird species on the planet, only about 55-60 of them (depending on whom you ask) are permanently grounded. Some flightless birds are simply too big and heavy to get off the ground. Others have developed specific adaptations to overcome their inability to take off… becoming strong swimmers, for example. Many are vulnerable to predation and as a result are threatened or endangered.
Here are a few of the flightless birds I’ve been fortunate to encounter during my travels over the years:
Flightless bird sightings are definitely underrated. Even though they’re often clumsy and a bit wobbly on land, it’s prudent to appreciate the relative scarcity of these birds and enjoy the few viewing opportunities we can get.