Everything in nature is beautiful, whether it is plants or animals. All living things are naturally stylish in their own way. Flowers come with unique fragrances, and in amazing colours and sizes, while animals have unique physical abilities and attributes.

The little creatures that fly high in the sky are also full of special attributes. For instance, they are engineers who build mind-boggling nests, they have all the tactics to scare away any threatening species from getting close to them, and when they are in a good mood they dance and show of their stunningly colourful tail feathers, spread out their crowns that even a king would envy or make musical sounds, amazing!

Today, we are exploring the crowns — not that of kings but of birds — that come in an array of colours, textures and shapes that you might not know about.

Royal flycatcher

Royal flycatchers are found in Mexico and most of Central America. This is a plain looking bird with drab light brown feathers on top and light yellow on the underbelly. But when it spreads its crest, which normally lays flat on top of its head, you see the real beauty. The raised crest makes an impressive fan shape with dark red for males and bright yellow for females.

Also, it is believed that the crest rises when the bird is feeling stressed and threatened, or when it wants to attract and impress the same specie and is competing with other males.

Curl-crested aracari

At first sight, it looks like a bunch of ribbons carefully put on the head of the bird, but hey, this bunch of ribbons is real and is made up of feathers … yes! The bird is a member of the toucan family and gets its name from the feathers on its head that are curled up like ribbons on a gift. Amazing little sweety!

Guianan cock-of-the-rock

This is the national bird of Peru and is known for its frog-like croaking and mud cup nests. The females are dark orange, but the males display vibrant orange feathers and a disc-like puff of plumage on their heads — always on display. They spend most of the day croaking and displaying their unusual hairdos in the hope of attracting other birds of the same species.

Ornate hawk eagle

Perhaps this eagle’s faux-hawk will bring back the famous hairdo fad again! It is so perfectly feathered that he needs no gel; the crest is spread and becomes prominent when this South American eagle is excited or aggressive.

King of Saxony bird-of-paradise

Male King of Saxony birds look like they have some really intense eyebrows. They are actually the thin string of feathers or head wires that are just above their eyes and are used during times of competition or attracting female birds by bouncing and inflating them.

To compete, males will perch above their territory and call out to potential mates. The call sounds less like that of a bird and more like a futuristic call alarm.

Nicobar pigeon

Beautiful but it is definitely not your typical city pigeon, as you can see this pigeon has long locks on its neck that form a lion-like mane. Believe it or not, this Southeast Asian species is the closest relative to the extinct dodo bird.

Livingstone’s turaco

We usually see green parrots in our part of the world, but turacos have the same beautiful green colour and are from the bird family musophagidae (literally means ‘banana-eaters’). Despite the name, they generally do not eat bananas.

This fun green bird — which is very social and lives in flocks with as many as 30 members — has a little fluffy crest that puffs up when it’s excited. Guinea turaco male bird feeds the female, and then they build a nest together.

The Victoria crowned pigeon

Victoria crowned pigeon is a bird of significant beauty. They come from the lowland forests and swamps of New Guinea. They live on the ground and mostly eat fruits such as figs and seeds that they forage for much as our town pigeons do.

The name commemorates the British Queen Victoria. Victoria crowned pigeon are hunted for their meat and fur and are evaluated as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Eurasian hoopoe

Donning a black-tipped Mohawk, the hoopoe is the definition of cool. It flaunts its feathers in Africa, the Mediterranean and throughout Europe and Asia.

Hawk-headed parrot

No, the picture is not photoshopped! This bird is for real and is called hawk-headed parrot and comes from the Amazon Basin. Hawk-heads look like normal parrots when their crests are flat, but when they raise their colourful feathers into a colourful mane, they look more threatening than pretty!

The grey crowned crane

This elegant creature is the national bird of Uganda (it breeds from Angola south to South Africa). Its dance involves a lot of bowing, jumping and general dancing about while shaking its amazing crest — but unlike most other cranes which make a sound akin to a trumpet, this one honks!

The white-crested helmetshrike

This African bird has white small puff of feathers as the crest but there is something more attractive to its appearance — a vivid yellow periophthalmic ring (the protective circle of bare skin) around its eye, that looks more like flower petals. It is a very sociable bird and moves around in small social groups.

The long-crested eagle

This sub-Saharan African bird has ferocious-looking eyes and the crown of natural black feathers’ on its head makes it rather distinct. It lives off small mammals such as shrews, but will take anything it thinks it can. It is thought that its crest feathers, like that of other birds, are used for buoyancy and to sense vibrations.

Polish-crested chicken

Hey, where are the eyes and the rest of the face? Honestly, there is just the beak and the rough hairdo! Perhaps full of attitude and a show off, the polish-crested chicken is a show bird!

Philippine eagle

The critically endangered Philippine eagle is heavily protected as the national bird of the Philippines. Its griffin-like splayed crest is intimidating enough, and has the nickname of “monkey-eating eagle,” because it feeds mainly on monkeys and flying lemurs.

The sulphur-crested cockatoo

Remember Nigel in the movie Rio? Yes, with crest that can stretch over five inches in length, the sulphur-crested cockatoo has light yellow crest on its head and is found in Australia, New Guinea and some of the Malaysian islands.

They make for very demanding pets and in captivity they can easily live up to 70 years! However, in their natural habitat, their life expeitancy is up to 40 years. They are renowned for their ear-piercing squawk and Australians have popularised them in their local culture for another reason — they always guard their mates when they are feeding on the ground and so someone who keeps guard for police raids in Australia is often known as a ‘cockatoo’ or a ‘cocky’.

Great curassow

Envy these perfect curls? At least this bird species will never experience a bad hair day! The great curassow’s range stretches from Mexico throughout Central America. And if you think this bird’s crest indicates its attitude, you are right — they are known for their aggression and tendency to bite humans. Stay away!

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 25th, 2016