World Facts

Most Populous Bird Species In The World

If it looks like a chicken, walks like a chicken, and clucks like a chicken, it just may be among the most populous bird species on earth.

Though most of the birds listed herein can be found living in abundance in the wild across large portions of the world, the one to top them all actually triples the global human population, and is used as a culinary standard against which to compare almost every known meat (e.g. "tastes just like chicken", "the other white meat", etc.).

10. Blue-crowned motmot (27.5 million)

Blue-crowned motmots are small, colourful birds distributed over a wide range in Central and South America, with their habitat ranges stretching from northeastern Mexico to northern Argentina. These birds are endowed with the ability to thrive in a wide variety of habitats, including tropical evergreen and deciduous forests, as well as areas with mountainous and coastal vegetation. They are also found in areas with secondary growth forests and even agricultural plantations. This ability of the blue-crowned motmot to adjust to such a wide geographical range, including human-inhabited areas, has allowed this species to survive the ecological pressures induced by human activities. These birds also have a large food base, including insects and other invertebrates, small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as such plant foods as various fruits, seeds, and nuts. There are about 27.5 million blue crowned motmots in the world today.

9. Black Grouse (27.5 million)

The black grouse is a large game bird belonging to the grouse family that has a wide distribution around the world. In Europe, significant populations of this species are found in Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries (possibly excluding Denmark, the Alpine nations, and a large number of Eastern European countries. In Asia, a notable presence of this species is observed in China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. Though the population of black grouse is currently 27.5 million, these birds are gradually declining in numbers in many countries. The black grouse is believed to have become extinct in Luxembourg, Denmark, and Hungary, while Belgium and the Netherlands also have rapidly dropping black grouse populations.

8. Willow Ptarmigan (40 million)

The Willow Ptarmigan is a typical bird of the subarctic and subalpine habitats, and one that has a widespread distribution accounting for a population of around 40 million. The bird prefers to live in the open tundra habitats wherein large volumes of vegetation in the form of grasses, mosses, herbs, and shrubs may be found. The Willow Ptarmigans are found in large numbers in the countries of USA and Canada in North American. In Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and Spain each have substantial populations of this bird. In Asia, the birds commonly occur in China, Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

7. Antarctic Prion (50 million)

The Antarctic Prion, having a total world population of around 50 million, is a small seabird thriving in the Antarctic and subantarctic waters of the eartth's Southern Oceans. These birds breed in the Auckland Islands of New Zealand, Macquarie Island and Heard Island of Australia, South Georgia, some islands belonging to the French Southern Territories, and a few sites on the continent of Antarctica itself. In winter, these birds leave their colonies in the extreme south and migrate as far north as the southern tips of Peru in South America and South Africa in Africa. In summer, they are also spotted harbored on pack-ice in the sea waters south of the Antarctic Convergence. Breeding occurs on slopes, grass tussocks, or rock crevices in cliffs. They prey on crustaceans, fish, and squid. Although the population of these birds appears to be quite large, their numbers are on the decline due to habitat destruction and climate change.

6. Common Cuckoo (63 million)

The abundance of the Common Cuckoo is quite well reflected in its name. There are about 63 million of these birds existing in the world today. The species is well-known for its members' migratory skills. Common cuckoos are capable of migrating across long distances from Asia and Europe (their residences in the summer months) to Africa in the winter months. Vagrant colonies of this bird are also found in the United States, Barbados, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Indonesia, Taiwan, Palau, and Seychelles. These birds prefer coniferous and deciduous forests and woodlands, though they may also be found at the edges of forests, meadows, marshes, steppes, and cultivated lands with large volumes of vegetation.

5. Great spotted woodpecker (145 million)

These small black and white woodpecker with a striking red vent thrives in many countries of the world, with a large global population of 145 million. Most countries of Europe and Asia have a substantial populations of this bird. These are one of the most adaptable species among the woodpeckers, and as such are found across a wide range of habitats within their respective countries of residence. They even occur in urban areas with adequate number of trees, such as city parks and gardens. They will often excavate holes in old trees (via "wood-pecking", which is how they also source food) and then nest in these holes.

4. Common Swift (120 million)

With a global population of 120 million, the Common Swift is one of the most abundant avian species in the world. The birds are migratory in nature, with their summer homes ranging across large parts of Europe and Asia. The habitat of these birds includes Ireland and Spain in the west, the Nordic countries and other Western and Eastern European nations, and spreads all the way east across large parts of Siberia and even into China. In winter, these birds migrate southward to such Northern African nations as Morocco and Algeria. Their presence is also observed in a number of countries in the Middle East. These birds are, however, not found upon the Indian subcontinent. Due to the wide distribution of the Common Swift, it has been positioned in the Least Concern category of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

3. Common Quail (168 million)

The 168 -million-strong common quail population is distributed widely over three of the world’s continents. Namely, these are the Old World locales of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The summer range for these birds stretches across large parts of Europe, expanding further east into Siberia and northern parts of China. In winter, they migrate to the warmer regions south of their summer habitats. During this season, they are commonly observed in southern China, most parts of the Indian subcontinent, and large parts of Africa. Grasslands are the preferred habitats for the common quail, although they are also found in a wide variety of other habitats, including within cultivated agricultural lands.

2. Common Pheasant (173 million)

The common pheasant is the second most populous bird of the world, with an estimated global population of 173 million. Though the bird was native to Asia, it was introduced by humans to most of the other continents where large populations of this species became established. Currently, common pheasants are found in large parts of Europe and North America, as well as Australia and New Zealand. In Eurasia, the range of these birds stretches from the Caspian Sea eastwards towards Central Asia, and then into China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. In North America, the common pheasant covers a broad range from southern Canada southward into California, and then eastward into the New England states and as far south on the Easten Seaboard as Virginia. Populations of these birds are also to be found in Hawaii.

1. Domestic Chicken (24 billion)

As expected, man’s domesticated favorite bird, the domestic chicken, ranks number one in terms of the most populous birds in the world. What may not be so expected is that they do so with an astounding global population of 24 billion, a giant leap in number compared to the 173 million figure of the second place common pheasant population. The chicken has managed to attain a significant level of cultural and culinary dominance in the human world. Archaeologists believe that man first used chickens for cockfighting instead of for eating. However, the use of this bird as a source of food became more common after large scale industrial production started in the 20th Century, and currently chicken is an important part of almost all global cuisines. Not just food, the chicken is also held sacred by some cultures of the world as a symbol of nurturing and fertility. Egyptians, Zoroastrians, and Romans each held the bird in high regard within their cultures. Thus, the domestic chicken continues to influence people and cuisines worldwide, as its numbers climb to skyrocketing figures. It goes without saying, of course, that a nice hen's egg or three can also make any meal a little better, whether boiled, fired, scrambled, or poached, and cock fighting is indeed strill a popular sport across much of the globe.

More in World Facts