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10 Birds That Can’t Fly & Why They Don’t Need To

It may seem weird for any bird to not have the ability to fly; is that not what birds are known for – flying? But some birds do not actually need the ability to fly, and they are still living life to the fullest without flight. So, which birds can’t fly?

10 birds that can’t fly include:

  1. Penguin
  2. Ostrich
  3. Emu
  4. Kiwi
  5. Cassowary
  6. Rheas
  7. Weka
  8. Kakapo
  9. Takahe
  10. Domesticated birds

The birds listed above are just a handful of birds that cannot fly, but you may consider these birds some of the most popular flightless birds. Let us take a look at these birds and how being flightless affects them.

The Penguin

Although penguins may not be able to fly through the air, they most certainly can “fly” underwater. These flightless birds still have incredibly strong wings, and these wings help them glide through water beautifully.

Even though it may seem strange for a bird to not be able to fly, penguins, fortunately, do not need to have the ability to fly. Penguins hunt in the water, not in the sky or on the land, which means that they do not need flight in order to catch their prey.

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They also do not need to fly in order to migrate, as they walk in waddles (a group/pack of penguins) and therefore do not need to fly. So, these birds really do thrive even with not having the ability to fly.

The Ostrich 

An ostrich is another flightless bird that is almost entirely unaffected by its lack of flight. Ostriches eat mostly seeds, roots, and plants; they will also eat small insects and lizards if they are available. Since their diet does not depend on the need to hunt, they are at no disadvantage without flight.

The amazing thing about the ostrich is that what they lack in flight, they more than make up for in their running; an adult ostrich can run at speeds of up to 70 KPH (43.4 MPH).

An ostrich can outrun almost any animal that may try to make it their prey. Not only can it outrun a predator, but using a claw that they have on each foot, a swift kick from an ostrich could easily kill an animal they feel is threatening too. Due to the information listed above, the lack of flight in an ostrich does not affect their lives at all.

The Emu

The emu is the fifth heaviest living bird, with adult emus often weighing as much as 60 kilograms (132lbs.), which makes it no surprise that they would struggle to take off and fly for not only any long-distance flying but even for short distances.

Emus eat the part of a plant that will have the highest concentration of nutrients; they eat the seeds, the young shoots, the fruits, and the roots. They will also eat insects and small creatures like lizards if they are easily accessible. 

Emus do not need to fly for any hunting reasons, and when they migrate, they will usually walk in groups of two or more, so they do not actually need the ability to fly, making their flightless ways, not an issue for them at all.

The Kiwi

The kiwi, although it is a bird, not only cannot fly, it does not even have true wings. The wings on a kiwi are absolutely tiny and definitely do not have the capability to fly.

This is not the only thing that makes the kiwi the oddest bird probably ever; the kiwi has nostrils rather than a beak, and its feathers are more like fur than a feather. These little birds are truly an unusual bunch of animals, but thankfully being flightless does not concern them at all.

Kiwis eat mostly worms as the main part of their diet; however, they also eat other insects, spiders, slugs, plant materials, and berries, which means that they only need to scavenge the lands and do not need to fly for any food resources. 

The Cassowary

The cassowary is a flightless bird

The cassowary, like most birds that cannot fly, enjoys eating mostly food found on the ground – their main food is the fruit that has fallen on the ground. However, these birds will also eat insects and other small bugs and invertebrates if they cross the cassowary’s path.

The cassowary bird is the second heaviest bird in the world, with the ostrich being the only bird that is heavier. Since this bird is so heavy, it makes sense that it is not a flying bird but more of a forager, like an ostrich and emu.

Although these birds are beautiful, they can be deadly if they feel threatened, so if you ever come into close proximity with a cassowary, rather admire these flightless beauties from a distance.

The Rheas

The Rhea is a swift bird; they are distantly related to the ostrich and the emu but are an entirely different bird. These birds do not fly, but they can run at fast speeds, and they forage for seeds, insects, and fruit which means that they do not necessarily need to fly for any reason at all

The Weka

Although these birds may look unassuming, they can be quite mischievous even without the ability to fly. These birds are known for stealing food and objects that they find to their liking and also have a very loud and very annoying call that males and females will sing to each other and often sing together.

They are so cheeky that even though they generally stick to eating fruit and small insects, they are known to eat the eggs and young from other group birds that they may find. These birds are probably better off as land birds if that is the type of trouble they can cause without the ability to fly!

The Kakapo

The kakapo is a very interesting-looking bird. This ground bird has a light green or slightly yellow-looking plumage that gives them the appearance of being covered in a moss of some kind.

These flightless birds are gentle animals and are entirely herbivorous. They eat fruits, seeds, the sapwood of trees, and pollen. These birds are big, beautiful, walking sweethearts – not being able to fly does not phase them.

The Takahe

The takahe not being able to fly seems to play no role in their lives whatsoever. These birds are so remarkable that they often live for up to 20 years. These sneaky medium-sized birds were actually thought to have been extinct for one hundred and forty-eight years until they were miraculously discovered as still being alive and well in 1948.

These birds are herbivores which once again means that they do not need to hunt for their prey; the talahe bird seems to be doing really well despite not being able to fly.

Domesticated Wild Birds

Some naturally wild birds that have been domesticated over the years have unfortunately lost the ability to fly due to years of not using this natural feature in their lives. Birds such as:

  • chicken
  • geese
  • turkeys
  • ducks

These are all examples of birds that have been domesticated. Birds that have been domesticated or farmed often will lose the ability to fly, and often the next generation of these birds will be born flightless.

This can also happen in birds kept as pets that are naturally able to fly, but going their whole lives in a cage not being able to use their wings, they may eventually being flightless birds, not actually knowing how to fly.


There are a surprising number of birds that cannot fly, but thanks to nature and the way these birds were beautifully designed, it usually doesn’t impact their lives in any way at all.

Most birds that do not fly tend to be herbivorous and stick to eating plats, roots, seeds, flowers, fruits, and berries; however, a few of these birds will also eat insects and some small bugs and lizards that may be unfortunate enough to cross these bird’s paths.

Whatever the reason for these birds not being able to fly, they mostly seem completely un-phased by their flightless ways. They are smart birds that have adapted to their lifestyle and are perfectly content on the ground with the rest of us.

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