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THE TOP 10: Cutest Birds in North America

Precisely what makes a bird “cute” is kind of hard to say. You don’t have to ask someone why puppies or kittens are cute. They just are  undeniably cute. It is a fact we all accept. Their cuteness requires no explanation, and is not up for debate. Undeniably cute birds exist too, but some are only cute if you know them a little bit. It’s like appreciating the charming tics of an old friend. Seeing a familiar bird’s energy, comportment, and presence stirs affection. Once a Carolina Wren or a House Wren has graced your yard, you cannot observe their fussy, industrious perambulations without fondness. Such birds become cute (or cuter) as you come to know them. They acquire meaning.

Perhaps wrens aren’t really the best example as I think most folks would agree they are pretty darn cute. And while cuteness in birds is certainly somewhat subjective, it does have several persistent themes. Smallness helps. Small birds are often cute, especially if they have some attitude. Mix 1 part smallness with 2 parts moxie and you have yourself a cute bird. (If you are short on moxie, crankiness is a fine substitute). Large eyes and short tails also help. Plumpness really helps, as does fuzziness. It’s also odd how ugliness is kind of cute. I don’t really understand why, but it’s true. (I recall my sisters musing on the cuteness appeal of Jabba the Hut… Maybe it’s the same thing with birds?). And perhaps for similar reasons, absurd “hairdos” on birds create cuteness as well.

Below you will find my take on the “Top 10 Cutest Birds in North America”, but check out our SLIDESHOW: (Cute Birds of the Americas) for a more thorough examination of cute birds in North and South America.


Boreal Chickadee ©George L. Armistead

Chickadees are pretty undeniably cute with their podgy bodies, small size, and alert attitudes.


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Winter Wren ©George L. Armistead

As mentioned, wrens rock! Winter Wrens have a voice that seems a million times the size they are.


Bufflehead © Dorian Anderson/

Also known as Little Dippers or Butterballs, when seen in life the small and plump proportions of the Bufflehead are undeniably appealing.


Eastern Screech-Owl ©Bill Schmoker

Owls are universally appealing, but small owls are nearly absurdly so.


American Coot ©Bill Schmoker

Talk about an ugly duckling… Things should get easier for this baby coot. I often quote my father when speaking about coots. He says,” I like a coot, because you never see a coot puttin’ on any airs.”


Brown-headed Nuthatch ©George L. Armistead

Small, plump, and emitting fussy sounds, nuthatches are always crowd-pleasers.



Least Auklets ©George L. Armistead

The Alcid family holds some pretty charming birds like puffins, Dovekie and Least Auklets, the smallest of the auks.


Northern Saw-whet Owl ©Bill Schmoker

Few birds are cuter than the Saw-whet Owl. Once seen in life, they are never forgotten.


Ruby-crowned Kinglet ©George L. Armistead

Kinglets are tiny, dainty, and attractive, with a little “fight” in their calls too.


Piping Plover © Dorian Anderson/

Shorebird babies are pretty ridiculously cute, but plover chicks are best of all. If this doesn’t melt your heart, then you better check yourself….

Don’t take my word for it though. See the birds for yourself! Check out these ABA Birding Events coming up soon:

1. Winter Birding Rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico February 16-20, 2013. REGISTER NOW!

Join Ashli Gorbet, Jeff & Liz Gordon, Bill Schmoker, George Armistead and others to search for rosy-finches and other southwestern specialties.

2. The Cradle of American Ornithology: An IFO Program in Philadelphia, Mar. 27-31, 2013.

Join Ted Floyd and George to learn about the history of bird study in the birthplace of the nation. Of course there will be plenty of birding too. Secure a spot now!

3. Gulf Stream Tubenoses of North Carolina: An IFO Program in Cape Hatteras, NC June 9-14, 2013.

George and Alvaro Jaramillo will give illustrated talks in a classroom setting to make the time at sea more valuable. We will search for seabirds but also unravel the secrets of these mystical birds through study. Secure a spot now!


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George Armistead

George Armistead

George Armistead is a lifelong birder and since April 2012 is the events coordinator for the ABA. George spent the prior decade organizing and leading birding tours for Field Guides Inc. He has guided trips on all seven continents, and enjoys vast open country habitats and seabirds most of all. Based in Philadelphia, he is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time birding the coast between Cape May, NJ and Cape Hatteras, NC.
  • I think killdeer chicks and mallard ducklings are cute!

  • Paul Hurtado

    Re: #1…
    Does anyone else see it? 😉

  • Ted Floyd

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet?! Why that little bugger is the Salacious Crumb of the bird world.

    You know. This guy:

    You call that cute?

  • M. Gregg

    Burrowing owls are adorable.

  • Hi there. Well I vote for the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and this past Friday, my wife and I came upon an adult Saw-Whet Owl out in the bush. So perhaps my vote is slightly swayed. But after years this was the first time as birders that we had ever seen a Saw-Whet Owl. Fortunately, we had our camera with us and got some good pictures and video. We have posted them for anyone interested at:

  • Eileen Gidman

    I think winterwrens are so special, I named my house and art business after them. Their song is extraordinary.

  • Judy

    I like the Boreal Chickadee but I like the hummingbirds best

  • Mary

    I know you’ve got #1 right. I know this because of the way my voice gets about 5 octaves higher every time I see one (even in pictures) as I saturate the air waves with proclamations on the bird being “So cute! So cuuuute!”
    No shame in that, right?

  • Skyla

    This is my 2 year old finch lucky
    He’s not wild but loves to free fly outside.
    He’s super tame,sings sits ony shoulder and does tricks.
    I also think the cedar waxwing babies are adorable i rescued
    An abandoned one in my yard , and taught it to fly.

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