Birdist Rule #31: Dress Up Like a Bird for Halloween

Not sure which one? Here are some ideas.

I get asked a lot if the reason I like birds is because I wish I could fly. I guess a lot of people say they’d pick the power of flight if they could choose a superpower, but to be honest, it’s not something that’s ever appealed to me.

I mean, how hard is it to get around as it is? I have a car, and airfare prices aren’t that bad anymore. I just think flying around by yourself would be annoying. You’d get bugs in your teeth. You’d always be the one asked to make a run to the grocery store. Plus, like, what are you going to do with your luggage? You can’t just carry it with you as you fly to vacation in another country. I think people forget about the luggage part.

The point is, I don’t love birds because I want to be a bird. They can do their thing and I’ll do mine. However, there are always exceptions. One of them is Halloween.

Birds are a perfect Halloween costume because there are so many options. You can embrace the scariness of Halloween and go as something deadly or creepy, like a vulture. You can get snazzy , and focus on a bird with elaborate plumage. You can also go the lazy route and just wear a green hat and call yourself a Mallard. And if none of those options sound appealing, then you can switch it up and dress like a famous birder instead. It still goes with the theme.

For this week’s column, I decided to give some bird costume ideas to those of you who might still be looking for suggestions. I hope they’re useful.

Scary Bird Costumes

Zombie Ivory-billed Woodpecker

The good news: They’re not extinct! The bad news: They’re back and lusting for human flesh!


  • Black and white clothes

  • Red mohawk (or red hat, I suppose)

  • A big white papier mache bill, tipped with blood

Mutant Passenger Pigeon

You know how some people are talking about using Jurassic Park-style technology to bring back the Passenger Pigeon? What if they try and it all goes wrong!? What if they become crazy half-Pigeon mutants flying around trying to kill us!? That’s a great costume.


  • Well, Passenger Pigeons had red breasts, blue-gray backs, and blue heads, so you’ll have to make some sort of suit. Or you could just wear a red shirt and blue pants and a blue hat?

  • Fake blood and maybe some of those crazy-eye contact lenses.

Human Turkey

Oh man, I just thought of an idea for a costume that's half human and half turkey. Wouldn’t that be terrifying?


  • All dark brown or black clothes 

  • You’re going to need some gross hanging turkey-neck wattles. Maybe use clay? Or put some sand in some old socks and attach them to your chin somehow. Ew.

Barn Owl

Barn Owls are the scariest birds in my opinion. They look like ghosts, fly around silently, and scream like someone being murdered. Want to be a scary bird? Be a Barn Owl.


  • Tan and white clothing

  • Maybe some scary white face makeup, or a homemade mask made out of a paper plate

  • No soul

Snazzy Costumes

There are a ton of beautiful birds out there. These costumes are about looking good, not looking scary.

Scarlet Tanager

Simple, but effective. Red all over with black wings. Could be a really nice costume if you wanted to wear a fancy dress and look like this old picture of Marilyn Monroe.


  • Red clothes

  • Black sleeves or gloves

  • Sexy attitude

Roseate Spoonbill

Lots of opportunities here. First, pink head to toe! Maybe you could even wear a tutu to imitate some feathers. Then, tape some spoons to your face! It’ll be hilarious!


  • Pink clothes

  • Spoons (Okay spoons taped to your face won’t make you look snazzy, necessarily, but what else are you going to do for a spoonbill?)

  • Tape

Painted Bunting

I mean, it’s the most colorful bird we’ve got. It would be a blast to see someone go all out in homage.


  • Red overalls

  • Green cape

  • Blue balaclava

  • Red sunglasses

  • Alternative option: dump a bunch of buckets of different-colored paints over your head and go like that

Literally any warbler

Just pick your favorite and copy it the best you can!


Lazy Costumes

Maybe you forgot. Maybe you don’t have the skills to make yourself a costume or the money to buy something. Most likely, you’re just too lazy to put the effort in. No worries, we’ve got you covered.

Indigo Bunting 

So easy.


  • Blue denim shirt and blue jeans. Bonus: Carry a hockey stick and you’re now a Canadian.

American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven


  • All black clothes.

  • Optional: Wear a white t-shirt under a black sweater and you can be “Chihuahuan Raven.”

Red-headed Woodpecker


  • White pants

  • Black shirt

  • Red hat

Bald Eagle


  • Brown shirt

  • White pants

  • Bald cap (or nothing, if bald)

Birder Costumes

As an alternative to dressing up like an actual bird, it might be a little easier to dress as a figure from birding’s history.

John James Audubon

The king himself!


Sir John Franklin

This was the British naval officer and man for whom the Franklin’s Gull is named. He died in 1847 when his expedition was lost somewhere in the Canadian Arctic, maybe near King William Island. This is a good, deep-cut birding costume because it’s also sort of scary.


  • Old timey Naval clothes

  • Maybe some blue makeup to make it look like you’re frozen?  (Hey, it’s Halloween.)

  • Prop gull

Noah Strycker


  • Normal clothes

  • Binoculars

  • Field Guides for every country in the world that you have to carry around all night

Turn-of-the-Century Lady in a Egret-plume Hat

The scariest monsters of all. The Audubon Society was founded in order to prevent the extinction of egrets and other birds at the hands of hunters supplying the fancy-hat trade.


  • Fancy old dress

  • Fancy old hat, with a FAKE big egret plume, or . . . my goodness, is that an entire gull?

  • Unquenchable thirst for the destruction of living creatures

That’s all I’ve got. If this column helped you, or you otherwise dress like a bird or birder this Halloween, please send pictures to @TheBirdist and @AudubonSociety. Happy Halloween!