Birds You Didn’t Know Were Solitary

Some birds prefer to live solitary lives as an adaptation for their survival.

Jul 12, 2023bySara Payne
birds you did not know were solitary

The saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” But, for some birds, that’s not always true. Some birds don’t live in flocks. Roadrunners, woodpeckers, solitary sandpipers, and the kakapo are birds who prefer a more solitary existence.

These birds use their solitary habits to their advantage. It is an adaptation that helps them, and their young survive in the wild.



With approximately 238 species of birds in the woodpecker family, it’s easy to see that these fowl are well-adapted to multiple habitats. Their name derives from their habit of using their beaks to make holes in trees looking for insects. Yet, they eat nuts, seeds, fruit, suet, and tree sap, as well.

Woodpeckers are even known to store away nuts like squirrels in the holes they chisel.

Every region in the world has some type of woodpecker, besides Australia and Antarctica. Most species stay put, living their lonely lives in the same place. These birds prefer living solitary lives in forested areas. These medium-sized birds come in a wide array of colors and patterns.

These small birds are quite territorial. Males will set up territories and can become aggressive with intruders. Some woodpeckers even participate in “threat courtship,” which involves them trying to drive each other up a tree.

After mating, baby birds are nurtured and taught to fly. Then, they are shooed away, so that the parent birds can part amicably and go back to their established territories. These birds do not always choose the same mates season after season, but some do have the same partner multiple years in a row.



Not unlike their cartoon representation, Roadrunners love to run. They can outrace a human. They are built for harsh landscapes, living in the Southwest North American desert. These solitary birds don’t have time for flocks; they are too busy speeding past everything.

These birds can eat poisonous prey like lizards, scorpions, and snakes without flinching. Their prey provides them with the precious resource of water. But, these birds have also adapted special glands next to their eyes to help conserve water, as well. These birds have a large territory that they defend.

Running is their main transportation. These birds glide, but they cannot fly well. So, they do not migrate.

Roadrunners mate for life. Together they raise chicks and defend their territory. They renew their relationship each spring before mating season again in an elaborate courting ritual.

Their solitary lifestyle helps them to better utilize scarce resources in the harsh, desert habitats they live.

Solitary Sandpiper

solitary sandpiper

The name says it all. Solitary Sandpipers don’t need friends. These lonely birds live near streams, wooded swamps, ponds, and marshes in mainly Alaska and Canada. However, unlike many of the other solitary birds in this list, these birds do migrate.

Migrating in flocks is usually beneficial. Birds can rely on each other to reach their destination, and the group protects potential predators. So, it is odd that Solitary Sandpipers can be seen migrating alone and at night.

These unique birds forage in shallow waters, eating insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and other invertebrates.

Males call while perched on trees to attract mates. They usually use nests that were built by songbirds, only adding some new lining to spruce up the place. Parents do not feed their young. But, how the young are cared for is a bit of a mystery. People think the chicks jump to the ground where parents perhaps tend to them there.

After mating, these birds go back to their isolated lives, which is how they are most commonly seen.



These flightless nocturnal parrots are found in New Zealand. They resemble an owl in many ways, but they walk like a duck.

The rare, solitary bird has greenish-brown feathers. They feed on plants, digging up rhizomes and crushing them with their beaks. These birds were feared extinct, but recently over 200 were found off Steward Island. There are conservation efforts in place to breed and establish a stronger population of these magnificent, lonely birds.

The kakapo can live up to 90 years. They are a heavy breed of parrot that climbs trees fairly well.

Females and young birds can be found together in small groups, but adults only get together to breed. These parrots have a unique called “lek breeding.” Males put on displays in a single location to try to attract mates. Females travel to find mates. They watch the displays and walk past males that don’t suit.

Once mating has occurred, the male takes off. Females raise chicks alone.


bird alone silhouette

Most solitary birds are non-migratory. They establish territories and defend those. Many are flightless or bad fliers. Being alone can serve many purposes in the animal kingdom, it means more resources for the bird and fewer family members to protect. A single bird can blend in much easier than a flock.

So, although most birds flock together, it’s OK that these are more antisocial.

Sara Payne
bySara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.