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79 Birds with Forked Tails (A to Z List with Pictures)

Birds with Forked Tails

Examples of birds with forked tails include Aleutian tern, arctic tern, Arizona woodpecker, ashy storm-petrel, and Asian house-martin.

Split tails, or forked tails, are a common sight among birds. Birds with split tails are a pretty rare sight, but they do exist. This particular type of bird is so named because the tail feathers on one side of its body are considerably longer than those on the other.

While there is no definitive answer as to why these birds have evolved this way, there are several theories that attempt to explain it. Some believe that the split tail helps the birds maneuver more easily in flight.

Examples of Birds with Forked Tails

1. Aleutian Tern

Scientific NameOnychoprion aleuticus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangearound the Bering Sea and nearby waters, including much of the southern Alaskan coast and Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian tern is a seabird that is found in the north Pacific Ocean. It gets its name from the Aleutian Islands, where it breeds. This bird has a split tail, with the feathers on one side being much longer than those on the other.

2. Arctic Tern

Scientific NameSterna paradisaea
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAntarctica

The arctic tern is a good example of a bird with a split tail. The arctic tern is a seabird that spends the majority of its life flying. It has been noted that these birds are able to change direction very quickly and efficiently in-flight using their forked tail.

3. Arizona Woodpecker

Scientific NamePicoides arizonae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeArizona

The Arizona woodpecker is a small-sized woodpecker found in the southwestern United States. This bird has a black body with white stripes running down its back. The tail is long and split, with the feathers on one side being considerably longer than those on the other.

4. Ashy Storm-Petrel

Scientific NameOceanodroma homochroa
Type of AnimalBird
RangeCalifornia and in the adjacent waters

The Ashy Storm-Petrel is a small seabird that is found in the North Pacific Ocean. It gets its name from its ashy grey plumage and forked tail.

5. Asian House-Martin

Scientific NameDelichon dasypus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeJapan, the Korean peninsula, southeastern Russia, Mongolia, and China

The Asian house-martin (Delichon dasypus) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It breeds in southern Asia from India to Indonesia. It is a resident breeder, often nesting on cliff faces near water.

The adult Asian house-martin is 18–20 cm long with a forked tail. The upperparts are glossy blue-black, and the underparts are pure white. The legs and feet are black. There is a small patch of bare skin around the eye, which is pink in the female and blue in the male.

6. Bahama Swallow

Scientific NameTachycineta cyaneoviridis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe Bahamas

The Bahama Swallow is a small songbird that is found in the Bahamas. The tail feathers on one side of its body are significantly longer than those on the other, giving it a forked appearance.

7. Bahama Woodstar

Scientific NameCalliphlox evelynae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeThe Bahama Archipelago

One of the birds with a split tail is the Bahama Woodstar. This small, brightly-colored bird is found in the Bahamas and Cuba. It has a forked tail that is about twice as long on one side as it is on the other.

8. Bank Swallow

Scientific NameRiparia riparia
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa

The Bank Swallow is a small songbird that is found in North America. This bird has a forked tail and is known to nest in the cracks and crevices of cliffs.

The long tail feathers on one side help the birds balance while flying near these Vertical surfaces.

9. Barn Swallow

Scientific NameHirundo rustica
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa

One of the most common birds with a forked tail is the Barn Swallow. These small, agile birds are incredibly adept at flying, and their forked tails may give them an advantage when it comes to maneuvering.

Related Article: Do Barn Swallow Have Red on Head?

10. Black Kite

Scientific NameMilvus migrans
Type of AnimalBird
Rangetropical portions of Australasia, Eurasia, and Africa

The Black Kite is a raptor or bird of prey. It has a forked tail and is found in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia.

Related Article: Do Black Kite Have Talons?

11. Black Skimmer

Scientific NameRynchops niger
Type of AnimalBird
Rangecoastal areas in Florida such as estuaries, beaches, and sandbars

The Black Skimmer is a type of bird that has a split tail. The name “skimmer” comes from the fact that this bird skims along the surface of the water while hunting for food.

12. Black Storm-Petrel

Scientific NameOceanodroma melania
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthern California and Mexico

The Black Storm-Petrel is a small seabird that is found in the Southern Ocean. It gets its name from its dark plumage and its habit of flying low over the waves during storms. This bird has a forked tail, which is believed to help it stabilize itself in strong winds.

13. Black-Capped Vireo

Scientific NameVireo atricapilla
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethroughout the Edwards Plateau and eastern Trans-Pecos regions of Texas

The Black-Capped Vireo is a small bird that is found in North America. This bird has a black cap on its head and a white stripe that runs from its beak, down its throat, and onto its chest. The Black-Capped Vireo also has a split tail.

14. Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Scientific NameArchilochus alexandri
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthern British Columbia in Canada through Idaho and Nevada, south to northern Mexico, and from coastal California, Arizona through Texas

The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a species of hummingbird that is found in North and South America. The male of this species has a black chin and throat, while the female has a greenish-black chin and throat. These birds are known for their long, forked tails.

Related Article: Do Anna’s Hummingbird Have Green Feathers?

15. Black-Headed Bunting

Scientific NameEmberiza melanocephala
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouth-east Europe east to Iran

The black-headed bunting is a small bird that is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a member of the Emberizidae family, which includes buntings, finches, and sparrows. The black-headed bunting gets its name from the black stripe that runs through its head.

16. Black-Naped Tern

Scientific NameSterna sumatrana
Type of AnimalBird
Rangerocky islets near the Singapore coast

The black-naped tern is a type of seabird that has a forked tail. These birds are found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They get their name from the black stripe that runs down the back of their necks.

17. Black-Whiskered Vireo

Scientific NameVireo altiloquus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthern Florida

The Black-whiskered Vireo is a small songbird that is found in the southeastern United States. This bird has a black stripe that runs down its cheek and ends at the base of its bill. The back and wings of this bird are green, while the belly is white.

18. Blue-Gray Noddy

Scientific NameProcelsterna cerulea
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAmerican Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga (Niua), Tuvalu, and Hawaii

The Blue-Gray Noddy is a seabird that can be found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. This bird has a forked tail, with the longest feathers on the outermost part of the fork.

19. Bridled Tern

Scientific NameOnychoprion anaethetus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe tropics and subtropics

The Bridled Tern has a long, forked tail with a dark central stripe. It is a coastal bird that can be found near the shorelines of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

20. Brown-Capped Rosy-Finch

Scientific NameLeucosticte australis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeArctic and alpine zones

Split tails or forked tails are a common trait in many birds, but this North American finch’s tail is particularly unique. The Brown-Capped Rosy-Finch is one of the few birds whose tail fork is asymmetrical. The outer feathers on the right side of the tail are shorter than those on the left side.

21. Brown-Chested Martin

Scientific NameProgne tapera
Type of AnimalBird
RangeColombia south to Argentina

The Brown-Chested Martin or Zenautha is a South American bird in the swallow family. It has a forked tail and brown upper parts. The underparts are whitish with some dark streaking on the breast and flanks.

22. Carolina Chickadee

Scientific NamePoecile carolinensis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth Carolina

The Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) is a small songbird that is found in the southeastern United States. This little bird has a black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray back and wings, and a rusty-brown underside. The male and female birds look alike

23. Caspian Tern

Scientific NameHydroprogne caspia
Type of AnimalBird
Rangetemperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America

The Caspian tern is a species of tern that can be found in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Caspian tern is the largest member of the tern family. These birds are mostly white with black on their wings and back. The Caspian tern has a forked tail that is longer on one side than the other.

24. Common House-Martin

Scientific NameDelichon urbicum
Type of AnimalBird
RangeEurope, northern Africa and temperate regions of Asia

The Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) is a migratory bird that breeds in Europe and Asia. It is a small passerine bird and is a member of the swallow family. The adult has black upperparts, white underparts, and a forked tail.

25. Common Swift

Scientific NameApodidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAfrica, ending up in Equatorial and Sub-Equatorial Africa

The Common Swift is a small bird that is similar in appearance to a house martin or swallow. It has dark plumage and a forked tail. TheCommon Swift is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

26. Common Tern

Scientific NameSterna hirundo
Type of AnimalBird
RangeOntario

The Common Tern is a seabird that can be found in many parts of the world. The Common Tern has a split tail, with the feathers on one side being much longer than those on the other.

27. Cordilleran Flycatcher

Scientific NameEmpidonax occidentalis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangewestern North America, mainly along the Rocky Mountains

This North American bird has a forked tail with the outer feathers being about twice as long as the central ones.

28. Couch’s Kingbird

Scientific NameTyrannus couchii
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSouth Texas

This is a South American kingbird with a forked tail. The male has a black body with yellow underparts, while the female is grayish-brown with white underparts.

29. Elegant Tern

Scientific NameThalasseus elegans
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeon the Pacific coasts of the southern United States and Mexico and winters south to Peru, Ecuador, and Chile

The elegant tern is a seabird that is found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The elegant tern gets its name from its long, slender body and forked tail. This bird can be found near coasts and in inland waterways, where it feeds on fish.

30. Eurasian Skylark

Scientific NameAlauda arvensis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeacross Europe and the Palearctic with introduced populations in New Zealand, Australia, and on the Hawaiian Islands

The Eurasian skylark is a small passerine bird. The adult male has a forked tail with the outer feathers being much longer than the inner feathers.

More Examples Of Birds with Forked Tails

  • Eyebrowed Thrush
  • Fork-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Fork-Tailed Storm-Petrel
  • Fork-Tailed Swift
  • Gilded Flicker
  • Golden-Crowned Kinglet
  • Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
  • Gray Kingbird
  • Gray-Backed Tern
  • Gray-Cheeked Thrush
  • Gray-headed Chickadee
  • Great Frigatebird
  • Greater Crested Tern
  • Gull-Billed Tern
  • Large-Billed Tern
  • Leach’s Storm-Petrel
  • Least Tern
  • Lesser Frigatebird   
  • Little Tern
  • Lucifer Hummingbird
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Mariana Swiftlet
  • Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrel
  • Mexican Chickadee
  • Mexican Jay
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Nutting’s Flycatcher
  • Olive-Backed Pipit
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Red Kite
  • Red-Flanked Bluetail
  • Ringed Kingfisher
  • Rivoli’s Hummingbird
  • Roseate Tern
  • Royal Tern
  • Rufous-Capped Warbler
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Sland Scrub-Jay
  • Sooty Tern
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Swainson’s Warbler
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Thick-Billed Kingbird
  • Thick-Billed Vireo
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Tree Swallow
  • Tropical Kingbird

Conclusion

Birds with forked tails have evolved this feature for a reason – it gives them an advantage when flying. Whether it is because they are able to maneuver more easily or because the long tail feathers help them balance, these birds have found a way to use their split tails to their advantage.

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