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10 Most Colourful Songbirds in the World and Their Songs

Updated on July 13, 2017

The Melodious Songbirds

Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) | Source

Birds have benefited the human beings in many ways. Some believe that in the forests they are important for conservation of ecosystems. Others are of the view that owning a bird is good for mental health due to increased social interactions. Also, it is believed that playing with and talking to a pet can reduce stress and blood pressure.

Watching a colourful bird certainly brings positive energy. The beauty of a bird clubbed with a sweet melody can certainly enhance that energy. Many of the songbirds are known for their colours as well as melodies to make them popular. Song repertoire of male songbirds is considered to be a mechanism of courtship and registering their territorial presence.

Stay with me to know more about 10 colourful songbirds and listen to their sounds.

10. Brazilian Tanager

Ramphocelus bresilius
Ramphocelus bresilius | Source

Brazilian Tanager


The male Brazilian tanager has brilliant scarlet red plumage with a black tail and black wings. Underparts are much redder than similar species. The bill has two colours, upper part is black and the lower one is pale. This attractive plumage is normally more prominent in the second year. There is a white spot at the base of its short silvery beak which is quite strong as well. The female is grey-brown with brown-red belly.

It is endemic to Brazil and mainly occurs in coastal, lowland forests and tropical shrub lands. It eats mainly pulpy food and seeds and exhibits aggression in competition for food.

Breeding is done in a nest which is like an open woven cup of grasses found placed on a low tree or in a bush and hidden amongst foliage. Two to three eggs of greenish-blue colour and black spotted are found in these nests.

It is placed in the least concern category indicating that there is no global threat.

Enjoy the Song of the Brazilian Tanager

9. Superb Starling

Lamprotornis superbus
Lamprotornis superbus | Source

Superb Starling (Back side)

Gregariousness | Source

The superb starling is a small but quite distinctive bird with glossy blue-green upper parts, upper breast, wings and tail. Belly, thighs and flanks are chestnut. The belly is separated from the breast by a white narrow band. Head is bronze-black on the crown and ears. The eyes are greyish-white, but the bill, legs and feet are black. The male and female look alike.

The superb starling has a very large range in East Africa and can be found in Ethiopia, Somalia, Southeast Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. It is found at an elevation up to 2500 metres in gardens, cultivated areas, lake-shore and open woodlands. They can be found very close to human habitations.

They are gregarious and found in large flocks. Usually monogamous, they also exhibit cooperative breeding tendencies during breeding season. Their nests are made of twigs and grasses, are large and domed having side entrance. About 3-4 eggs are laid by the female which are incubated alone in about 2 weeks. They feed on insects, mainly. The feed may include ants, termite, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and flies.

The superb starling has loud and long song which includes thrilling and chattering. The species is not threatened.

Enjoy the Song of the Superb Starling

8. Prothonotary Warbler

Protonotaria citrea
Protonotaria citrea | Source

Prothonotary Warbler


The Prothonotary warbler is a bright golden-yellow, brilliantly bouncing bird with blue-grey wings and tail. Its beady black eyes make it unique among warblers. It has a distinctive double-pattern on its wide tail, which looks white at the base and dark at the tip, seen from below during flight. It weights about 12.5 g and is nearly 13 cm long.

Unlike other warblers, Prothonotary warbler builds its nest above standing or slow-moving water in holes in dead trees, stumps or even bird houses, if available. It lays 4-6 eggs of creamy or pink colour with brown spots. After about 2 weeks of incubation by the female, the young ones leave within 10-11 days of hatching. It breeds in extreme southeastern Ontario and Eastern United States. West Indies and northern South America are its migration preferences in winter.

It feeds on insects, caterpillars, beetles and other insects. Snails, spiders and some seeds are also consumed. Its population is in decline due to loss of forested wetland in the United States. Its song is high-pitched ringing 'sweet-sweet' and call is sharp.

Enjoy the Ringing 'Sweet-Sweet'

7. Painted Bunting

Passerina ciris
Passerina ciris | Source

Painted Bunting


The painted bunting is also nicknamed as nonpareil which means unrivalled. This description is in view of its stunning colours and believed to be the most brilliantly coloured songbirds in North America. Male has dark blue head, red underparts and green back. The females and the juveniles have painted buntings which are green and yellow-green.

The breeding range of the painted bunting is in two pockets. (1) From northern Texas to northern Mexico with a winter range in southwestern Mexico (2) From the Atlantic coastal areas of Florida to Northern Carolina with a winter range in south Florida to the Caribbean. It breeds around thickets, shrub areas and woodland edges.

They are regular eaters of grass seeds. In summer they eat beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and flies. Normally 3-4 whitish to bluish-white eggs with reddish-brown spots are laid. They are shy and secretive, but the males are known for singing in spring.

Enjoy the Short Song of the Painted Bunting

6. Northern Red Bishop

Euplectes franciscanus
Euplectes franciscanus | Source

Northern Red Bishop

Euplectes franciscanus
Euplectes franciscanus | Source

The Northern red bishop is a sparrow-sized flinch measuring about 13-15 cm including the tail. Depending upon the season they are found in two colour phases. The breeding male has scarlet plumage with black head and waistcoat. Wings and tail are brown. The bill is conical, thick and black. But the non-breeding male, mostly has plumage which is pale yellow-brown, streaked above and shading to whitish below.

It occurs naturally in Africa - south of the Sahara Desert and north of the Equator. It has been introduced in the southwestern United States, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

It is a gregarious species which feeds on a variety of seeds, grains and plant food. It may feed on the ground or by hanging from the seed heads of grass. The males work on the dome-shaped nests with an entrance from the side. Grass and other plant material are used in weaving these nests. The females select their nests and give final shape to these nests. Normally, 2-4 aqua-blue eggs are laid. The young ones are ready to leave the nest in 18-21 days.

The call of a Northern red bishop is described as a thin tsip and it is not an endangered species.

Northern Red Bishop Calling

5. Gouldian Finch

Erythrura gouldiae
Erythrura gouldiae | Source

Gouldian Finch

White-breasted Yellow-headed and Black-headed male Gouldian Finches
White-breasted Yellow-headed and Black-headed male Gouldian Finches | Source

The Gouldian finch is also called rainbow finch because of gorgeous plumage. It is brightly coloured with black, green, red and yellow marking, but the differentiating factor is the colour of the head. Normally between 130-140 mm in length the variants are called the redheaded or the black-headed or yellow-headed. It was named after late Lady Elizabeth Gould by her husband, an English Ornithologist in 1841.

The Gouldian finches are native to northern Australia. Their natural habitat is tropical savanna woodlands. Till 1960's they were trapped and exported to other countries in large numbers. Their numbers reduced drastically, but now they are being bred in captivity.

They are basically seed eaters. During the wet season they like spinifex grass seed, but in breeding season they prefer ripe or half ripe grass seeds of sorghum. Fallen seeds attract them during the dry season. They find tree-holes to make their nests and breed during the early period of the dry season. Normally, 4 to 8 eggs are laid which are taken care by both male and female. They are social birds and love interacting with other finches. It is good to keep them in pairs or small flocks.

Gouldian Finch Singing

4. Black-Naped Oriole

Oriolus chinensis Male
Oriolus chinensis Male | Source

Black-Naped Oriole in Flight

In flight
In flight | Source

The black-naped oriole is an overall golden passerine with a stronger pinkish bill and some black on its wings and tail. It has a peculiar eye-stripe which broadens and joins at the back of the neck. There are similarities in the colour pattern of male and female except that the wing lining of the female is more greenish or olive. Juveniles have a streaked colouration on their breasts.

It is found in gardens, plantations and forests in many parts of South Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines. It feeds on fruits like cherries, figs and mulberries. It likes insects and has also been found taking nectar from large flowers.

Its nest is a deep cup placed usually in a fork of a tree. It is constructed using grass, bark and twigs. Two to three bluish-white eggs with purple-brown spots are laid during April to June.

They have a dipping flight and a range of clear and loud flute whistle song.

Flute Whistle Song of the Black-Naped Oriole

3. Chinese Hwamei

Garrulax canorus
Garrulax canorus | Source

Chinese Hwamei


The Chinese hwamei is also called melodious laughing-thrush and has acquired its name because of the distinctive marking around its eyes which looks like painted eyebrows. This bird is about 21 to 25 cm long with reddish-brown plumage marked by darker streaking on the head and the breast. The bill and feet of this 60-78 g passerine bird are yellowish.

The Chinese hwamei is found in central and southeast China, Taiwan, Central Vietnam, Laos and northern Indochina. It inhabits open woodland, scrubland, bamboo, reads, gardens and parks up to 1800 metres above sea level.

The bird is shy and it is difficult to see it. It feeds on the ground mainly on insects, ants, fruit and cultivated maize. It builds large cup-shaped nest made up of bamboo leaves and roots. It looks rough from outside. During breeding season, which lasts from May to July, the female lays 3-5 blue or blue-green eggs. After about 15 days incubation by the female, the chicks are fed by both the parents.

Listen to the Chinese Hwamei's Melody

2. Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis
Cardinalis cardinalis | Source

Northern Cardinal


The northern cardinal, a medium-sized, long-tailed songbird, is brilliant red all over. It has short, very thick cone-shaped red bill and a prominent red crest. Interestingly, the male has a black mask on the face and the female mask is grey.

They can be located in the backyards, suburban gardens, dense bushes, swamps and shrubs. They are abundant across the eastern United States and provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

They feed mostly on seeds and berries. Also, insects like beetles, grasshoppers, beetles ants and spiders are parts of their diet. Being a territorial songbird, the male sings in a loud and clear whistle from top of a tree or building to defend its territory.

Song of a Northern Cardinal

1. Golden-Fronted Leafbird

Chloropsis aurifrons
Chloropsis aurifrons | Source

Golden-Fronted Leafbird


The golden-fronted leafbird is an elegant green-bodied restless bird. It has bright golden forehead and orange-yellow shade from the forehead to the crown’s centre. The cheeks, throat and breast are blackish but the chin is deep blue. It has slender, slightly downward curved bill and forked, brush-tipped tongue. Overall, it has vibrant coloured plumage, but the female is relatively less brilliant. They say that this leafbird is more heard than seen because its unique colour harmonises with the leaves.

The golden-fronted leafbird is a widespread resident breeder in India, Sri Lanka and some parts of Southeast Asia. It is primarily a tree dweller and it inhabits deciduous woodland and evergreen broadleaf forest. It is an aggressive, strong and long-lived species. The food consists of spiders, insects, spiders, fruits, berries and figs. Flower nectar is also regularly eaten.

They normally breed from May to August. The nests are shallow cups of tendrils, fine twigs, moss, leaves, rootlets lined with soft grass. The nests are carefully concealed and attached to a thin branch high up in a tree. Normally, 2-3 pale-cream or reddish-cream eggs speckled or lined with brown or red-brown are laid. Both male and female share the care of the eggs.

Their songs are melodic with a cheerful whistle.

Golden-Fronted Leafbird song

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© 2017 srsddn


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  • srsddn profile image

    srsddn 2 months ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Thanks for visiting, barb. I wonder if this link could be of some help.

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    barb maki 2 months ago

    Does anyone know were the bohieam waxwings are ? I'm by Kentucky