Every bird has a story. Drawings by Jason Polan.

The Sketch

Every bird has a story. Drawings by Jason Polan.

The Shoebill: Or, the Most Terrifying Bird in the World

Are you ready for this thing? I don't think you're ready for this thing.

The Cattle Egret

This long-stemmed and long-sighted wader gets all the good stuff: sex, real estate, and plenty of insects.

The Loggerhead Shrike

This sweet-looking bird has a serious dark side.

The House Finch

Thanks to an undercover Audubon sting, this bird is more of a backyard staple than a celebrity.

The Chuck-will's-widow and Eastern Whip-poor-will

Nightjars, goatsuckers, whatever you want to call them—these freaky birds are heard but rarely seen.

The Barred Owl

This intimidating giant has a question for you.

The House Wren

This Little Brown Bird has a tendency to get bird lovers all riled up.

The American Coot

This cranky marsh bird takes tough-love parenting to a whole new level.

The Southern Giant Petrel

When this seabird isn't projectile-vomiting on its enemies, it's probably burying its head in rotting seal guts.

The Northern Harrier

Encounters with these "gray ghosts" may leave you feeling a little uneasy.

The Hoatzin

This South American misfit tries hard to fit in, but just can't help being weird.

The Kakapo

This New Zealander is often down, but never out.

The Oilbird

This bird's what you might get if you combined a bat, a dolphin, and a mouse, added just a soupçon of frat boy, and put a beak on it.

Wilson's Phalarope

This freethinking sandpiper has no use for your bourgeois conventions.

The American Dipper

This pudgy little bird may not look like anything special, but beneath its underwhelming exterior beats the heart of a champion.

The Bar-Tailed Godwit

While you struggle to get your 10,000 steps a day, this wading bird covers thousands of miles without stopping once.

The Lammergeier

This bone eater may seem sinister, but you just need some time to get to know it.

The Galapagos Penguin

These little guys are all about fun in the sun.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel

If a bird walks on water and no one is there to see it, does it make a splash?

The Black Skimmer

This seabird is the Venus flytrap of the avian world—but way weirder.

The Superb Lyrebird

An artist with commercial appeal.

The Monk Parakeet

These South American birds made it north by escaping from a broken shipping crate… Maybe.

The House Sparrow

Social climbers beware—in this flock, everyone knows their place in line.

The Hoopoe

An emissary of kings and inspirer of poets, once it’s home, this bird is all kinds of nasty.