27 Birds With White Heads (With Photos)

Birds With White Heads

When you hear of a white-headed bird, which bird comes to your mind? Most likely gulls, right? Gulls are sea birds who are mostly white in color. However, there are a number of birds besides gulls who have white heads as well. In this article, we will take a look at 27 birds who have white-colored heads, including some of the gulls, egrets, swans, cranes, etc.

Belcher’s Gull

Belcher's Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Larus Belcheri
Body length – 49 centimeters (19 inches)
Weight – about 567 grams
Wingspan – 48 inches
Lifespan – 10-16 years
Diet – Carnivore

Also known as the “Band-tailed gull”, the Belcher’s Gull has a white head, grey neck and underparts, greyish-black wings, and a white trailing edge. They have been named in the memory of Sir Edward Belcher and are found along the Pacific coast of South America.


Pacific Gull

Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus) by Nik_Borrow | Pacific, Gull, Animals

Scientific name –  Larus Pacificus
Body length – 58-66 centimeters (23-26 inches)
Weight – about 800 grams to 1.1 kilograms
Wingspan – 137-157 centimeters (54-62 inches)
Lifespan – 15years
Diet – Carnivore

Native to the coasts of Australia, the Pacific Gulls are large gulls with a white body, dark back, and wings. They have a distinctively thick yellow beak tipped with red at the edge. These birds contain salt glands for secreting salty water through their nostrils.


Ross’s Gull

Ross's Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Rhodostethia rosea
Body length – 29-32 centimeters
Weight – about 120-250 grams
Wingspan – 82-92 centimeters
Lifespan – 10-12 years
Diet – Carnivore

Named after the British explorer, James Clark Ross, Ross’s Gulls are a small species of gull inhabiting in North America and Siberia. They have an overall white body, light grey back and wings, and red legs. A neat black ring around their neck distinguishes them from other gulls.


Ivory Gull

Ivory Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Pagophila eburnea
Body length – 40-43 centimeters (15-19 inches)
Weight – about 450-680 grams
Wingspan – 108-120 centimeters (42-47 inches)
Lifespan – 8-17 years
Diet – Carnivore

Breeding in the high Arctic, the Ivory Gulls are a small species of gulls who look more like pigeons than gulls. They have an overall white body and wings. Their beaks are short and thick blue tipped with yellow, with a red eye-ring around their eyes.


Slaty-Backed Gull

Slaty-backed Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Larus schistisagus
Body length – 55-68 centimeters (21-27 inches)
Weight – about 567 grams
Wingspan – 132-160 centimeters (52-63 inches)
Lifespan – 24 years
Diet – Carnivore

The Slaty-backed Gulls are large, white-headed gulls who reside in the Palearctic coasts during the breeding seasons but travel far and wide during the rest of the year. They have yellow beaks, short pink legs, white underparts, and dark-grey wings.


Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Larus glaucoides
Body length – 50-64 centimeters (20-25 inches)
Weight – about 480 grams to 1.1 kilograms
Wingspan – 115-150 centimeters (45-59 inches)
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Carnivore

Contrary to the taxonomy, the Iceland Gulls do not reside in Iceland but are only seen in the country during winters. They breed in Greenland and the Arctic regions of Canada. In appearance, they are very similar to the Glaucus Gulls; they have a white body with light grey wings, pinkish legs, and pale-yellow beaks with a red spot.


California Gull

California Gull Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Larus californicus
Body length – 46-55 centimeters (18-22 inches)
Weight – about 430 grams to 1.04 kilograms
Wingspan – 122-137 centimeters (48-54 inches)
Lifespan – 20 years
Diet – Carnivore

The California Gulls are the medium-sized gulls who inhabit the marshes and lakes in western North America. During winters, these migratory birds move to the Pacific coast. They look somewhat like the Herring Gulls, except for their bills, which are small and yellow with a black ring at their edge.


Little Egret

Little Egret - eBird

Scientific name – Egretta garzetta
Body length – 55-65 centimeters (22-26 inches)
Weight – about 350 to 550 grams
Wingspan – 88-106 centimeters (35-42 inches)
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Carnivore

The Little Egrets are actually small-sized herons who have a slender neck and an overall white body. Their legs are black with yellow feet, with a long and black beak. They reside in the wetlands of Asia, Europe, Australia, and Africa, and have recently extended their habitat to the United Kingdom.


White Tern

White tern - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Gygis alba
Body length – 35-43 centimeters (14-17 inches)
Weight – about 92 to 139 grams
Wingspan – 76-87 centimeters
Lifespan – 36 years
Diet – Carnivore

Widely found across the tropical oceans, the White Terns are small sea birds who are also referred to as “fairy tern”, “angel tern”, and “white noddy”. They have a long black beak and an overall white body with white plumage. These birds usually nest on trees with short branches.


Black-Legged Kittiwake

Black-legged kittiwake - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Rissa tridactyla
Body length – 37-41 centimeters (15-16 inches)
Weight – about 305-525 grams
Wingspan – 36 to 41 inches
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Piscivore

The Black-legged Kittiwakes are coastal birds that are found across the northern coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Both their head and body are white, with yellow bills, grey wings, and black legs. They have a subspecies, the Red-legged Kittiwakes, who are similar to them with an exception to their legs.


Chinese Egret

Chinese Egret - eBird

Scientific name – Egretta eulophotes
Body length – 68 centimeters
Weight – about 390-540 grams
Wingspan – 99-114 centimeters
Lifespan – 14 years
Diet – Carnivore, Piscivore

Also known as “Swinhoe’s egret”, the Chinese Egrets are native to South Asia, and breed in the coastal areas of Russia, mainland China, and North and South Korea. They have an overall white body with white wings and plumes, long legs, and a long and sharp beak.


Whooper swan

Whooper Swan - eBird

Scientific name – Cygnus cygnus
Body length – 140-165 centimeters (55-65 inches)
Weight – about 7.4-14 kilograms
Wingspan – 205-275 centimeters
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Herbivore

The Whooper Swan resembles the Trumpeter Swan very closely and is also believed to be the latter’s Eurasian sibling. These birds have a long neck with shorter legs and a white body. Their beaks are half yellow-half black, with their small eyes fixed just beside them.


Kelp Gull

Kelp gull - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Larus dominicanus
Body length – 54-65 centimeters (21-26 inches)
Weight – about 540 grams to 1.3 kilograms
Wingspan – 128-142 centimeters (50-60 inches)
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Carnivore

The Kelp Gulls are also known by the name of “Dominican gull” and “southern black-backed gull” in different regions.

These birds bear a strong resemblance to both the Great and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls and have an overall white body with the exception of the wings, which are dark grey. Their legs are greenish-yellow, with a yellow beak.


Black-tailed Gull

Black-tailed Gull - eBird

Scientific name – Larus crassirostris
Body length – 64-79 centimeters (25-31 inches)
Weight – about 750 grams to 2.3 kilograms
Wingspan – 1.5 to 1.7 meters
Lifespan – 12 years
Diet – Carnivore

Native to the shorelines of East Asia, the Black-tailed Gulls are called “umineko” in Japanese, which means “sea cat”, because of their cat-like call. Their medium-sized body is entirely white in color, except for their wings, which are grey with whitish edges. They have black tail wings, yellow legs, and beak with red and black spots at its edge.


Herring Gull

HERRING GULL | The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas

Scientific name – Larus argentatus
Body length – 55-67 centimeters (22-26 inches)
Weight – about 750 grams to 1.5 kilograms
Wingspan – 125-155 centimeters (49-61 inches)
Lifespan – 10-20 years
Diet – Carnivore

More commonly known as the European Herring Gull, Herring Gulls are the best-known species of gulls in the world.

Their head and underparts are white, with grey wings and upperparts. They have a yellow bill with a red spot on it. They are permanent residents in the North Sea shore, Britain, Iceland, Ireland, but migrate to various parts of the world.


Cattle Egret

Scientific name – Bubulcus ibis
Body length – 46-56 centimeters (18-22 inches)
Weight – about 270-512 grams
Wingspan – 35-38 inches
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Carnivore, Insectivore

Native to Asia, Europe, and Africa, the Cattle Egrets are the colonizing herons that are nowadays found all over the world. They have a short, white head and body, with large grey legs and short yellow bills.


Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle | MDC Discover Nature

Scientific name – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Body length – 30-37 inches
Weight – about 3-6.3 kilograms
Wingspan – 72-90 inches
Lifespan – 20-30 years
Diet – Carnivore

The Bald Eagles are sea eagles that reside in North America. They have a white, hairy head, with the rest of their body being dark brown in color.

Both their beaks and irises are the same shade of yellow. They make their nests in old-growth trees closer to areas with sufficient food resources. The females are larger in size than their male counterparts.


Snowy Owl

Snowy owl - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Bubo scandiacus
Body length – 52-71 centimeters
Weight – about 1.6-2.9 kilograms
Wingspan – 126-145 centimeters
Lifespan – 10 years
Diet – Carnivore

Also known as “Arctic owl” or “Polar owl”, the Snowy Owls belong to the true owl family and are quite large in size. These diurnal birds breed in the tundra regions of North America and the Palearctic. Their body is a shade of pure white, with occasional brown-black streaks on their wings. Their eyes are bright yellow.


White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite | Audubon Field Guide

Scientific name – Elanus leucurus
Body length – 25-43 centimeters (14-17 inches)
Weight – about 250-380 grams
Wingspan – 35-40 inches
Lifespan – 5.9 years
Diet – Carnivore

The White-tailed Kites are small birds of prey who inhabit western North America and certain parts of South America. They are white like the gulls, with their body and stances similar to falcons. With white upperparts and underparts, their grey wings have black tips.


Black-bowed albatross

Black-browed Albatross - eBird

Scientific name – Thalassarche melanophris
Body length – 88-93 centimeters
Weight – about 3-5 kilograms
Wingspan – 240 centimeters
Lifespan – 70 years
Diet – Carnivore

Also known as the “black-browed mollymawk”, the Black-bowed Albatrosses are large seabirds that are found in southern oceans. They have a white body, dark back and wings, pinkish beaks, and white legs.


Great Egret

Great Egret Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Ardea alba
Body length – 80-104 centimeters (31-41 inches)
Weight – about 700 grams to 1.5 kilograms
Wingspan – 52-67 inches
Lifespan – 15 years
Diet – Carnivore, Piscivore

Known for their S-shaped neck, the Great Egrets are found in America, southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. They have an overall white body with black legs and feet and yellow bills. The IUCN has included these birds in the category of Threatened Species.


American White Pelican

American White Pelican Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Pelicanus erthrorhynochos
Body length – 130-180 centimeters (50-70 inches)
Weight – about 12 kilograms
Wingspan – about 9 feet
Lifespan – 16 years
Diet – Carnivore, Piscivore

The American White Pelicans are large, soaring birds found in Central, South, and North America. They are the largest bird native to America. They have a large, plump body that has an overall white color. Their beaks are bright yellow in color, with their legs a deep shade of the same.


Mute Swan

Mute swan - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Cygnus olor
Body length – 125-170 centimeters (49-67 inches)
Weight – about 8-12 kilograms
Wingspan – about 6-7 feet
Lifespan – 15-20 years
Diet – Omnivore

Native to Eurasia and Africa, the Mute Swans are a species of swans that have been introduced to North America and other parts of the world. They have an entirely white body with a light brownish hue on their heads. Their beaks are orange in color and have a large black knob on them.


Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar - eBird

Scientific name – Fulmarus glacialis
Body length – 46 centimeters (18 inches)
Weight – about 450 grams to 1 kilogram
Wingspan – 40-44 inches
Lifespan – 60 years
Diet – Carnivore, Piscivore

The Northern Fulmars are also called by the name of “Arctic fulmars” in some regions. These seabirds share the family of petrels and prions and are primarily found in the subarctic regions of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. They have a white head, grey wings, bluish legs, and a thick, yellow bill.


Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting | Audubon Field Guide

Scientific name – Plectrophenax nivalis
Body length – 15 centimeters
Weight – about 30-40 grams
Wingspan – 13-15 inches
Lifespan – 2-3 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore

The Snow Buntings are passerine birds that inhabit the Arctic regions. You can find these birds in central Scotland, the Saint Elias Mountains, and the Cape Breton Highlands.

They prefer to walk on the ground and are large birds with long wings. They occasionally have a brownish tint on their heads and are often confused with the McKay’s Buntings.



Scientific name – Mergellus albellus
Body length – 38-44 centimeters (15-17 inches)
Weight – about 450 to 650 grams
Wingspan – 56-69 centimeters
Lifespan – 1-8 years
Diet – Carnivore

The Smews is a species of ducks that are found in the Palearctic and the boreal forests of Europe. These migratory birds have strong wings and look incredible in flight.

The males have an entirely white body with black beak, eyespots, and certain black lines all over their wings. They look somewhat like “broken ice”. The females, however, have a brown head, white neck, and the rest of the body covered in grey.


American White Ibis

American white ibis - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Eudocimus albus
Body length – 24.5 inches
Weight – about 700 grams to 1.04 kilograms
Wingspan – 40 inches
Lifespan – 14 years
Diet  – Carnivore

Belonging to the ibis family, the American White Ibis is a large bird found all across the United States. They have an overall white body with a long, orangish beak and black edges to their wings. Like all other species of ibis, these birds also fly with their necks outstretched.


Summing it up: Birds With White Heads

Apart from the white-headed birds who are native to America, you can also find here a number of migratory birds with white heads in their non-breeding season. The next time you find a white-headed bird flying over your backyard, you will recognize them right away.