Skip to content Skip to footer

11 Small Birds With Stunning Long Tails From Around The World

In the vast avian world, small birds with long tails stand out for their striking appearance and fascinating behaviors. These birds, ranging from the nimble flycatchers to the elegant whydahs, showcase an incredible array of adaptations.

Their long tails are not just for show; they play significant roles in flight, social communication, and mating rituals. This article will take you on a journey to discover eleven such remarkable birds, each with its own unique charm and characteristics.

List of Small Birds With Long Tails

Long-Tailed Tit

Small birds with long tails - Long-Tailed Tit
  • Scientific Name: Aegithalos caudatus
  • Tail Length: Up to 7-9 cm (2.8-3.5 inches)
  • Where Found: Europe and Asia
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Long-Tailed Tit, true to its name, possesses a tail that is longer than its body. These small, spherical birds are known for their undulating flight and the distinctive long tail that aids in their agility. Found in woodlands, gardens, and scrub areas, they are social birds, often seen in small, noisy flocks. In winter, they form communal roosts to keep warm.

Their diet consists primarily of insects and spiders, making them beneficial for natural pest control. Long-Tailed Tits are also known for their remarkable nests – a round structure made of moss, spider silk, and feathers, which provides excellent insulation and camouflage.

Did you know? Long-Tailed Tits have a cooperative breeding system, where birds that lose their nests will help raise the young in other nests.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Small birds with long tails - Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Scientific Name: Tyrannus forficatus
  • Tail Length: Up to 28 cm (11 inches)
  • Where Found: North and Central America
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher is renowned for its exceptionally long, forked tail, which it uses with great skill during its acrobatic flight. These birds are easily identifiable by their pale grey head and back, bright salmon-pink underparts, and black and white wings. They inhabit open areas such as prairies, farmlands, and savannas, where they can often be seen perched conspicuously on wires or trees.

Their diet primarily consists of insects, which they catch in the air with remarkable agility. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is also the state bird of Oklahoma and is known for its graceful aerial displays during courtship and territorial disputes.

Did you know? The tail of the male Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher can be as long as the bird’s body, making it one of the longest-tailed birds in North America relative to body size.

Paradise Whydah

Small birds with long tails - Paradise WhydahSource: Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Vidua paradisaea
  • Tail Length: Males can grow tail feathers up to 20 cm (7.9 inches) during breeding season
  • Where Found: Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Paradise Whydah is a small, sparrow-like bird known for the males’ impressive long tails during the breeding season. These dramatic tail feathers are used in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. The males are also known for their striking black and yellow plumage during this period, while the females and non-breeding males have more subdued coloring.

Paradise Whydahs are brood parasites, meaning they do not build their own nests but lay eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly finches. The host birds then raise the whydah chicks alongside their own. This unique reproductive strategy makes the Paradise Whydah a subject of interest in avian studies.

Did you know? The tail of the male Paradise Whydah can become so long during the breeding season that it actually hinders its ability to fly.

Indian Ringneck Parakeet

Small birds with long tails - Ringneck Parakeet
  • Scientific Name: Psittacula krameri
  • Tail Length: Up to 25 cm (9.8 inches)
  • Where Found: Originally from the Indian subcontinent
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Indian Ringneck Parakeet, known for its ability to mimic human speech, is equally notable for its long, tapered tail. This vibrant bird is typically bright green with a distinctive red and black ring around its neck, which is more prominent in males. The long tail of the Indian Ringneck contributes to its elegant appearance and aids in flight, providing stability and agility.

These parakeets are popular in aviculture due to their intelligence and charming personality. In the wild, they are found in forested areas, gardens, and agricultural lands where they feed on seeds, fruits, and nectar. Indian Ringnecks are social birds, often found in flocks, and have adapted well to urban environments in many parts of the world.

Did you know? Indian Ringneck Parakeets have a lifespan of more than 20 years in captivity, making them long-term companions for those who keep them as pets.

Pin-Tailed Whydah

Small birds with long tails - Pin-Tailed Whydah
  • Scientific Name: Vidua macroura
  • Tail Length: Males can grow tail feathers up to 37 cm (14.6 inches) during breeding season
  • Where Found: Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Pin-Tailed Whydah is another small bird with a dramatic tail, especially evident in breeding males. These birds are known for their breeding plumage – the males develop a striking black and white coloration with a long, pin-like tail. Like the Paradise Whydah, they are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species, such as waxbills.

Outside the breeding season, both sexes resemble the female waxbill species that they parasitize, which helps them sneak their eggs into the hosts’ nests undetected. The males perform elaborate aerial displays to attract females, showcasing their long tails.

Did you know? The Pin-Tailed Whydah’s tail is one of the longest relative to body size among birds, used as a visual signal in its complex mating displays.

Racket-tailed Drongo

Small birds with long tails - Drongo
  • Scientific Name: Dicrurus paradiseus
  • Tail Length: Up to 30 cm (12 inches), including the distinctive ‘racket’ tail streamers
  • Where Found: Southeast Asia
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Racket-tailed Drongo is a small, glossy black bird renowned for its spectacular tail. The long, outer tail feathers end in a dramatic racket-like shape, giving the bird its name. This tail is not only a visual spectacle but also plays a role in its acrobatic flight maneuvers as it hunts for insects.

Racket-tailed Drongos are known for their vocal abilities, capable of mimicking the calls of other bird species. They inhabit dense forests and are often seen following mixed-species feeding flocks, capitalizing on the insects stirred up by other birds. Their sociable nature and distinctive calls make them stand out in their habitats.

Did you know? The Racket-tailed Drongo’s ability to mimic other birds’ calls is sometimes used to alarm other species, creating an opportunity to steal food in the ensuing confusion.

Green-Cheeked Conure

Small birds with long tails - Conure
  • Scientific Name: Pyrrhura molinae
  • Tail Length: Up to 15 cm (6 inches)
  • Where Found: South America
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Green-Cheeked Conure, a small parrot species, boasts a relatively long tail for its size. This bird has a predominantly green plumage, with distinctive red, blue, and black markings around its face and tail. The long tail helps in balance and agility, particularly in their natural habitat of dense forests.

These conures are known for their playful nature and strong social bonds. They are often seen in pairs or small groups, feeding on fruits, seeds, and insects. Their popularity as pets is due to their affectionate demeanor and ability to learn tricks and mimic sounds.

Did you know? Despite their small size, Green-Cheeked Conures have a surprisingly loud call, which they use to communicate over long distances in the wild.

Marvellous Spatuletail

Small birds with long tails - SpatuletailSource: Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Loddigesia mirabilis
  • Tail Length: Up to 15 cm (6 inches)
  • Where Found: Rio Utcubamba region in Peru
  • Conservation Status: Endangered

The Marvellous Spatuletail is a small, rare species of hummingbird known for its unique and spectacular tail. Males have a remarkable tail with two long, racquet-shaped outer feathers that they use in intricate aerial displays to attract females. This bird’s iridescent plumage, rapid wingbeats, and dynamic courtship rituals make it a marvel to behold.

The Marvellous Spatuletail is found in a limited range in Peru, inhabiting forest edges and shrubby clearings. They feed on nectar from a variety of flowering plants and are important pollinators in their ecosystem. Conservation efforts are crucial for this species due to its limited range and the ongoing threat of habitat loss.

Did you know? The Marvellous Spatuletail is unique among hummingbirds for having just four feathers in its tail, with the two central feathers growing much longer and ending in spatula-like discs.

Wire-Tailed Swallow

Small birds with long tails - Wire-Tailed Swallow
  • Scientific Name: Hirundo smithii
  • Tail Length: Up to 9 cm (3.5 inches)
  • Where Found: Africa and South Asia
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Wire-Tailed Swallow is a small, agile bird known for its slender, elongated tail wires. These tail extensions give the bird its name and add to its aerodynamic flight. The Wire-Tailed Swallow has a glossy blue back, a red face and throat, and a white underbelly, making it a striking sight in flight. It is often seen skimming over water bodies, catching insects in mid-air.

Found across Africa and South Asia, these birds are known for their mud nests, which they often build on the sides of human-made structures like buildings and bridges. The Wire-Tailed Swallow is a social species, frequently seen in groups, especially during migration. Their long tail feathers are not just for show; they enhance maneuverability during flight, which is essential for catching insects.

Did you know? The Wire-Tailed Swallow is one of the few swallow species where the tail wires are present in both males and females, though they are longer in males.

Barn Swallow

Small birds with long tails - Barn Swallow
  • Scientific Name: Hirundo rustica
  • Tail Length: Up to 7 cm (2.8 inches)
  • Where Found: Worldwide
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Barn Swallow is arguably one of the most widespread and familiar of all swallows. Recognizable by its deep blue upperparts, a reddish-orange underbelly, and a long, forked tail, the Barn Swallow is found across most of the world. These birds are excellent flyers, known for their graceful, fluid wingbeats and acrobatic flight patterns. The long tail is not only a distinctive feature but also aids in their agile flight and insect-catching prowess.

Barn Swallows are migratory, traveling great distances between their breeding areas in the Northern Hemisphere and wintering grounds in the Southern Hemisphere. They have adapted well to human environments, often building their mud nests in man-made structures. As insectivores, they play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, benefiting agriculture and human habitation areas.

Did you know? Barn Swallows often mate for life, returning to the same nesting sites year after year, where they engage in cooperative care of their young.

African Paradise Flycatcher

Small birds with long tails - African Paradise Flycatcher
  • Scientific Name: Terpsiphone viridis
  • Tail Length: Up to 18 cm (7 inches) in males
  • Where Found: Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The African Paradise Flycatcher is a small, striking bird known for its exceptionally long tail, especially in males. The males have a glossy black head, a bright blue eye-ring, and a long, ribbon-like tail, which they display during courtship rituals. The females, while less colorful, also have a notably long tail, though not as extended as the males.

Found across Sub-Saharan Africa, these birds inhabit forests and woodlands. They feed primarily on insects, which they catch in mid-air with impressive agility. Their long tails, while seemingly cumbersome, don’t hinder their flying abilities and are used to attract mates and deter rivals.

Did you know? The African Paradise Flycatcher is known for its adaptability, often nesting near human habitation and taking advantage of man-made structures for perching and hunting.

Why Do Some Birds Have Long Tails?

In the avian world, long tails are more than just a visual delight; they serve several important functions that contribute significantly to a bird’s survival and behavior. The reasons why some birds have evolved to have long tails are diverse and fascinating, reflecting the intricate adaptations in nature.

Aerodynamic Maneuverability: For many birds, particularly those that are adept flyers like swallows and flycatchers, long tails help in maneuvering through the air. The tail acts like a rudder, assisting in steering and allowing the bird to make quick turns, dive, and ascend efficiently. This agility is crucial for catching prey, avoiding predators, and navigating through complex environments.

Mating and Courtship Displays: Long tails are often used in mating rituals, where they play a key role in attracting mates. In many species, like the African Paradise Flycatcher, males with longer and more impressive tails are often preferred by females. These tails can signify good health and genetic strength, making them attractive in the eyes of potential mates.

Territorial and Threat Displays: Birds also use their long tails for territorial and threat displays. By fanning out their tails, they can appear larger and more intimidating to rivals and predators. This display can be crucial in establishing and defending territory, especially during the breeding season.

Balance and Stability: In certain species, particularly those that frequently perch or walk on the ground, long tails help in maintaining balance. The tail can counterbalance the body, providing stability as they move or feed.

Communication: Tails can be a means of communication among birds. Certain movements or positions of the tail can convey different messages or signals to other birds, such as signaling alarm, readiness to mate, or the presence of food.

Environmental Adaptation: The length and shape of a bird’s tail can be an adaptation to its habitat. For instance, birds that navigate through dense forests or brush have tails that help them maneuver in tight spaces, while those in open areas may use their tails for different purposes.

In summary, long tails in birds are a result of evolutionary adaptation to meet various needs, from improving flight dynamics to enhancing reproductive success. Each species’ tail tells a story of adaptation and survival, reflecting the diversity and complexity of avian life.

Leave a Comment