An Overview of Bird Species With Names Starting With the Letter “I”

The letter “I” may not be the most common starting letter for bird names, but there are still a number of interesting bird species with names that being with the letter I. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of these birds, including key identification features, their geographic ranges, and other interesting facts about them.

Key Groups of Birds With “I” Names

Several groups of birds have common names starting with I, including:

  • Ibises
  • Ioras
  • Israelites
  • Indigobirds
  • Ibisbills

There are also some individual species with I names, like the Isabelline Shrike.


Ibises are a group of wading birds that tend to live in wetland habitats. There are a number of different ibis species found around the world, including:

Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) has dark reddish-brown plumage that appears glossy in bright light. Its curved bill is also reddish-brown in color. It breeds in warmer regions across Southern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Australian White Ibis

As the name suggests, the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis moluccus) is almost all white apart from black wing tips. It is native to Australia but can now also be found in parts of New Zealand and East Asia where it has established some introduced populations.

Scarlet Ibis

The beautiful Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) lives up to its name with vivid red plumage. It breeds in parts of South America and also Trinidad and Tobago.

Northern Bald Ibis

The Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) has a featherless red face and a curved red bill. Historically widespread across North Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe, habitat destruction and hunting led to this species becoming extremely rare. However, reintroduction programs have recently helped wild populations recover slightly.


Ioras are a genus of small passerine birds found across South-East Asia. There are five recognized species:

Common Iora

The Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) is greenish-yellow with gray on its head and upper breast. As the name suggests, it is the most widespread iora species across South and South-East Asia.

Marshall’s Iora

Marshall’s Iora (Aegithina nigrolutea) is only found on a few Malaysian islands including Penang and Langkawi. The male is olive-yellow with a black mask and throat.

Green Iora

The Green Iora (Aegithina viridissima) lives up to its name with bright green upperparts (the back and wings), contrasting with more yellow underparts. It occurs through Myanmar and parts of Southeast Asia.

Great Iora

Slightly larger than other ioras, the male Great Iora (Aegithina lafresnayei) is mostly golden yellow, with a black crown, neck, and throat patch. It is found widely in parts of India and Southeast Asia.

Mangrove Iora

As the name hints, Mangrove Iora (Aegithina prasina) mainly lives in coastal mangrove forests in northern parts of Southeast Asia. The male is brighter olive-yellow compared to the female.


Israelites, or Sunbirds Asity, are a genus (Neodrepanis) of three species found only on the island of Madagascar. These unusual little birds have specialized brush-tipped tube-like tongues for nectar-feeding from flowers. The three species are:

Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity

This species has bright yellow underparts with olive upperparts, a gray head, and gray feet. It lives in montane forest areas.

Common Sunbird-Asity

As the name suggests, this species has the widest distribution in eastern rainforests of Madagascar compared to rarer relatives. It feeds more on insects as well as nectar.

Rufous-headed Sunbird-Asity

Only discovered in 1993, this rare species is found in a small part of north-eastern Madagascar. Both the male and female have reddish heads.

Key Facts About Indigobirds and Why They Have Such Unusual Names

Indigobirds are a genus of small finch-like birds called estrildid finches. Here are some key facts about these uniquely-named birds:

They Are Brood Parasites

Like cuckoos, indigobirds lay their eggs in the nests of other estrildid finches. The young indigobirds are then raised by the host birds.

Their Naming Reflects Parasitic Behavior

Many indigobird species are named after their particular host species. For example, the Village Indigobird is a brood parasite of the Red-billed Firefinch.

Mimicry of Host Species Calls

Indigobirds have evolved the ability to perfectly mimic the calls and songs of their estrildid finch hosts. This helps trick the host birds into accepting the imposter eggs and chicks.

Colorful Males, Drab Females

In most species, the males have strikingly bright blue plumage, while females come in plain brown similar to the host species they mimic. This likely helps reduce rejection of her eggs in host nests.

Species Include:

  • Village Indigobird – parasitic on Red-billed Firefinch
  • Jambandu Indigobird – parasitic on African Firefinch
  • Cameroon Indigobird – parasitic on Black-bellied Firefinch

So in summary, the unusual “indigobird” name refers to the unique brood parasitic life cycles of this African finch genus. Mimicking host species has been key to their reproductive success and survival.

Other Notable Birds Starting with “I”

Beyond the key groups above, there are a few other noteworthy bird species with names starting with the letter I:

Isabelline Shrike

The Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus), also known as the Red-tailed Shrike, is light brown-gray above and off-white below with reddish tail feathers. Its range spans from eastern Europe across central Asia.

Idaho Towhee

The Idaho Towhee (Pipilo aberti) is a uncommon species of sparrow endemic to a small part of the western United States around Idaho. As implied by the name, it can only be found in Idaho within the USA.

Inca Tern

The striking dark red-beaked Inca Tern (Larosterna inca) lives along the Pacific coasts of Peru and Chile. It nests very densely with up to 200 nests per square meter!

Key Information Summary in Table Format

To summarize key details on some major bird groups starting with “I”, here is overview information in table format:

Bird GroupKey Identification FeaturesGeographic RangeIbisesLong downcurved bills, long legs and necks, range of plumage colorsGlobal distribution across warmer regionsIorasSmall passerines with finch-like appearance and curved billsSouth and South-East AsiaIsraelitesTube-like tongues for nectar feeding, unusual appearanceEndemic to MadagascarIndigobirdsParastic estrildid finches, bright blue males and drab femalesAfrica

This covers some of the major bird groups with names starting with the letter I, highlighting their key identification features and where they can be found.

Conclusion and Summary

Although less common that some other starting letters, a diverse array of interesting bird groups and species have names that begin with the letter “I”. These range from the widespread Ibises that inhabit wetlands on multiple continents, to the uniquely-adapted Sunbird-Asities only found in the forests of Madagascar.

Key identification features were covered, along with detail on the geographic distributions of these birds and some noteworthy facts about unusual species behaviors.

So while not the most populous of bird name categories, “I birds” certainly include some intriguing and impressive species, often exhibiting fascinating adaptations and lifestyles found nowhere else in the avian world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common physical features of birds with names that start with I?

Some common physical features of birds starting with I include: long curved bills (Ibises), brush-tipped tubular tongues (Israelites), finch-like appearance (Ioras, Indigobirds), and colorful plumage (Ibises, Indigobirds).

The Idaho Towhee has the smallest geographic range, being found only in the state of Idaho in the western United States.

How have Indigobirds evolved to succeed as nest parasites?

Indigobirds have evolved an ability to mimic the calls and appearance of their host finch species. This trickery allows them to successfully lay eggs in host nests undetected. Males also retain a distinctive bright blue plumage.

Which species starting with I has adapted to feed almost exclusively on nectar?

The Sunbird-Asities or Israelites of Madagascar have specially adapted brush-tipped tubular tongues for nectar-feeding from flowers.

**Which “I bird” species has the largest geographic range? **

The Glossy Ibis has the widest overall distribution, with scattered populations spanning across southern Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Most other “I birds” have more restricted ranges.

About the Author: Hudaibia

My name is Hudaibia with the profound passion for our feathered friends. Birds have captivated my heart and mind since childhood. Now I share my avian devotion through my website,