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.
Chickadees are pretty undeniably cute with their podgy bodies, small size, and alert attitudes.
Winter Wren ©George L. Armistead
As mentioned, wrens rock! Winter Wrens have a voice that seems a million times the size they are.
Also known as Little Dippers or Butterballs, when seen in life the small and plump proportions of the Bufflehead are undeniably appealing.
Owls are universally appealing, but small owls are nearly absurdly so.
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.”
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.
Few birds are cuter than the Saw-whet Owl. Once seen in life, they are never forgotten.
Kinglets are tiny, dainty, and attractive, with a little “fight” in their calls too.
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:
Join Ashli Gorbet, Jeff & Liz Gordon, Bill Schmoker, George Armistead and others to search for rosy-finches and other southwestern specialties.
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!
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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