The animal world is full of mysteries and amazing animals. When we talk about birds, especially the largest in the world, they are very recognizable since they contrast enormously with the same animals of their species.

Birds are significant and an indispensable part of the planet for many reasons. Today we want to show you the largest birds in the world, those whose size is not what we usually see in our day-to-day.

The size of these birds on earth is imposing, especially with their full wingspan. This article will mention the leaders of the largest flying birds by wingspan.

Table of Contents

1. Wandering Albatross

Wandering albatrossess
Scientific NameDiomedea exulans
Size107 to 135 cm
Weight10-11 kg
WingspanAlmost 4 m
Life expectancyMore than 50 years
HabitatSouthern Ocean
Speed40 km per hour
Conservation StatusVulnerable 

Albatrosses have earned fame for long-distance travel over the ocean’s surface because they have the longest wingspan in the world of birds. 

Albatrosses are of two types: royal and wandering. The albatross is not so giant; prominent individuals weigh 10-11 kg. 

But the wings of this bird are impressive; their span is almost four meters. The wings of albatrosses are narrow and very long compared to other birds. 

This wing structure allows birds to glide using air currents rising from the ocean’s surface. In addition, the wings of albatrosses have a particular tendon that allows them to spread the wing without expending muscle effort. 

The life expectancy of an albatross is in the range of 10-30 years. However, there are cases when these birds live up to 50 years.

The albatross spends most of its time in the sky, reaching speeds of up to 40 km / h and overcoming great distances simply searching for food. And on the way from the subtropics to the Antarctic, wandering albatrosses can fly up to 1000 km per day. 

Another iconic feature of albatrosses is that these birds, so graceful in the sky, are clumsy on the ground – to take off, they must dive from rocks or catch strong wind gusts.

Wanderers, by nature, at the beginning of the breeding season – in November – albatrosses are forced to choose a permanent place to build nests. 

Vast colonies of birds occupy rocky cliffs and plains, where there is enough space for their spectacular mating games. Females and males bow to each other, spread their giant wings wide, raise their beaks to the sky and emit a loud inviting cry.

Albatrosses hunt day and night and feed on fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and marine garbage. Albatrosses also pick up leftover food that has been thrown from ships. 

Thus, it becomes clear why these birds are the only ones that accompany ships floating thousands of kilometers from the coast. 

Albatrosses also appear above the water before the onset of a storm, as waves bring food to the surface at this time.

Albatrosses are inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere, where they are found everywhere in cold and temperate latitudes. During migrations, albatrosses can fly far north and are found up to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, but they never fly into the Arctic Ocean.

Nowadays, albatrosses suffer from ocean pollution with garbage and oil products: oil stains the plumage of birds and makes it unsuitable for flight, and albatrosses often take garbage for prey and try to swallow it. 

The accumulation of debris in the stomach eventually leads to the bird’s death. Currently, out of 21 species of albatrosses, 19 are listed in the Red Book. 

Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador signed the Albatross and Petrel Conservation Agreement to protect these beautiful birds.

2. Great White Pelican

Great white pelican eating a fish
Scientific NamePelecanus onocrotalus
Size1.40 to 1.80 meters
Weight9-15 kg
Wingspan2.26 to 3.6 m
Life expectancy16 years
HabitatSoutheastern Europe, Asia, African swamps, and shallow lakes
Speed63 km per hour
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

The great white Pelican, also famous as the Eastern White Pelican, Pink Pelican, or White Pelican, is a bird in the Pelecanidae Family. It breeds in southeastern Europe, Asia, African swamps, and shallow lakes.

The White Pelican is a massive bird with a wingspan ranging from 2.26 to 3.60 meters (about a 12foot wingspan). The latest measurement is the largest recorded among existing flying birds outside the giant albatrosses. 

One characteristic that makes it different from other pelicans is the coloring of its wings. When flying, it is possible to observe black patterns under the wing. These are black lines that form a stork-like pattern.

The White Pelican’s total length can range from 1.40 to 1.80 centimeters, with the huge beak comprising 28.9 to 47.1 centimeters of such length. 

Adult male pelicans weigh 9 to 15 kg, although large Palaearctic races are usually around 11 kg, with few exceeding 13 kilograms. Female pelicans are considerably less bulky and heavy, weighing 5.4 to 9 kg. 

The Great White Pelican is well adapted to aquatic life. The short, strong legs with webbed feet can propel the bird through the water and help take off, which is quite tricky, from the water’s surface. 

However, long-winged pelicans are powerful aviators and often travel in spectacular groups in a ‘V’ formation once aloft.

The Pelican’s diet is varied, although the quintessential prey is the different species of sizable fish. On the other hand, they can also eat crustaceans or tadpoles and feed on turtles.

The white Pelican has been classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. Currently, the exact number of extant specimens is unknown. It is estimated that in total, there are about 300,000 individuals.

3. Dalmatian Pelican

Dalmatian pelicans of lake Kerkini
Scientific NamePelecanus Crispus
Size160-180 cm
Weight7-15 kg
Wingspan2.9 to 3.45 m
Life expectancy35 years
HabitatLakes, rivers, estuaries, and deltas, particularly in low-lying wetland areas
Speed65 km per hour
Conservation StatusVulnerable

The Dalmatian pelican and the albatross are among the largest modern birds. The bird’s body length is 160-180 centimeters; the weight varies between 7 and 15 kilograms. 

This Pelican has a huge wingspan, from 2.9 to 3.45 meters (more than 10 feet wingspan), and when it flies, it looks like a small hang glider.

It differs from the rosy pelican type in the curly feathers on the back of its head. Hence it is also referred to as curly Pelican. 

It has short, gray legs and silvery-white to gray plumage. The adult pelican changes color to cream or grayish brown. Young birds are gray and do not have the pink patch on their heads that young white pelicans have.

Another distinctive feature of the Dalmatian pelican is its beak. It is the largest of all birds. The beak bones and the entire skeleton of the bird have many air-filled cavities, which makes them light without diminishing their strength.

The Dalmatian pelican loves the coast of large, fish-rich water basins and rivers and lakes on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. 

The shores of the Azov, Caspian and Aral seas, Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and northern China are countries where the Dalmatian pelican is one of the inhabitants.

The bird feeds almost entirely on fish. Favorites include carp, European perch, eel, catfish, mullet, pike, and redfin. This pelican species needs about 1,200 grams of fish per day and can accept smaller fish but ignores them at the expense of larger ones.

The population of Dalmatian pelican has significantly been reduced, much more than the white Pelican. It is evaluated that there are currently 2,60,000 to 3,00,000 pelicans of the species.

The dramatic decline of the last century was due to reasons still unclear. Poaching, habitat loss due to human activity, accidents, and others are thought to play a role. The Dalmatian pelican is highly vulnerable and is included in the Red Book of Protected Species.

4. Andean Condor

Andean Condor in flight
Scientific NameVultur gryphus
Size100-130 cm
Weight7-15 kg
Wingspan3 m
Life expectancy15 years
HabitatAndes Mountain range along the Pacific coast region of western South America
Conservation StatusNear Threatened

The Andean condor, one of the heaviest and largest flying birds in the world, living in western South America, can reach up to three meters in wingspan and weigh up to fifteen kilograms, so it prefers a passive form of flight to use less energy.

The condor loudly flaps its wings and, trying to avoid overwork, takes flight from cliffs and rocks. 

Some Andean condors can fly up to 172 kilometers without flapping their wings. This conclusion was reached by a team of ornithologists led by Emily Shepard from the University of Swansea, who observed the movements of eight of these birds from Argentina.

It turned out that the bird spent only 1.3 percent of the total flight time on flapping wings, which is the lowest among all birds.

Condors spent most of their time flying between roosting and feeding places and over places where domestic animals grazed – a source of carrion and food for birds. 

The Andean condor is one of the Andes’ symbols and a national symbol in Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador. 

Rock paintings have already depicted this giant as far back as 2.5 thousand BC. In the tribes of the Indians, the Andean condor is associated with the deity of the sun; the Indians consider the bird the ruler of the upper world.

A distinctive feature of condors is the head and large neck, on which there are practically no feathers. The bare patches of skin are pink, but they can also change depending on the mood and emotional state of the condor.

Andean condors have been awarded the honorary title of orderlies of nature, maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. However, climate change and environmental pollution threaten these majestic birds’ existence. 

Therefore, zoologists are trying hard to restore the population of the Andean condor, breeding it in captivity and resorting to many other tricks. 

5. Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard
Scientific NameArdeotis kori
Size120-140 cm
Weight20 kg
Wingspan2.74 m
Life expectancy26 years
HabitatDry grasslands, scrublands, and savannahs
Speed 1 km per hour
Conservation StatusNear Threatened

The great African bustard, or Kori bustard, is a large flying bird that lives on the African mainland. 

It chooses little wooded areas, savannas, semi-deserts, areas overgrown with grass, and low shrubs for life and reproduction. It is a sedentary bird; if it moves, it is for very short distances after a period of rain.

The African bustard is the world’s heaviest flying bird of all living species. So, an adult male can weigh up to 20 kg, and the length from the beak to the tip of the tail is 120-140 cm. 

Females are more “miniature.” Representatives of this variety of bustards weigh no more than 6 kg.

Kori Bustard lives alone or in the company of 5-6 other individuals. The bird is most active in the morning and evening when it is not very hot.

The largest and heaviest African bustard is omnivorous, feeds on insects, small animals, roots, berries, and seeds, and does not disdain carrion.

Since the kori bustard spends most of its time on the ground, it becomes an object of hunting for many predators. They include cheetahs, leopards, lions, caracals, mountain pythons, martial eagles, and jackals. 

Moreover, these last two predators pose the greatest danger to eggs and chicks. Bustards of all ages are of interest to predators. And eggs and chicks also attract mongooses, baboons, and African warthogs. 

The statistics show that out of two newborn chicks, only one survives. If the offspring is in danger, the female tries to protect him, for which she fluffs her tail and wings, trying to look bigger, but these attempts to scare off the “aggressor” are not always successful.

6. Lappet-Faced Vulture

Lappet-faced vulture flying before landing in a Game Reserve in Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa
Scientific NameTorgos tracheliotos
Size95 – 115 cm
Weight4.4 – 9.4 kg
Wingspan2.5 – 2.9 m
Life expectancy35 – 50 years
HabitatRegions with scattered treeline, thornbush, arid mountain slopes, and dry savannah
Speed48 km per hour
Conservation StatusEndangered

The lappet-faced vulture or Nubian vulture is the old age vulture and is the only existing member of the Torgos genus.

Found abundantly in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, these birds prefer regions with scattered treeline, thornbush, arid mountain slopes, and dry savannah.

They can sometimes be spotted in denser areas or human habitats during the foraging period.

The Nubian Vulture is the longest and largest winged vulture species, with a wing span of 8.2-9.5 feet.

The bird primarily feeds on carcasses as other vultures do, but they do not have a strong sense of smell like other new age vultures. This might be the leading cause of their endangerment.

With a weight of 4.4 – 9.4 kilograms, the bird has a life expectancy of 35 – 50 years.

7. Marabou Stork

Marabou Stork
Scientific NameLeptoptilos Crumenifer
Size120 – 130 cm
Weight4.5 – 8 kg
Wingspan3.7 m
Life expectancy25 years
HabitatRiver banks, swamps, lake shores, and dry savannah
Speed72 km per hour
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Marabou Stork of South Africa might be the most disgusting bird on our list. The omnivores of 120 – 130 cm are one of the largest flying birds with huge wing spans.

It has a wingspan of 3.7 meters and weights up to 4.5 – 8 kilograms. The bird can be found near river banks, swamps, and even dry savannah, sustaining in both arid and wet habitats.

Marabou stork feeds on carcasses, small fishes, and even feces which makes the birds’ meat unhealthy to consume, but it’s not poisonous, as many people speculate.

Their speed of 72 km per hour and variability in feeding habits have protected their population status.

8. Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Scientific NameCygnus Buccinator
Size183 cm
Weight9.4 -12.7 kg
Wingspan1.85 – 2.5 m
Life expectancy24 years
HabitatWetlands free from human disturbance
Speed135 km per hour
Conservation StatusEndangered and preserved 

Trumpeter Swan is the majestic white bird that lives in the pristine wetlands of North America, away from human disturbances.

The heaviest North American bird eats small fishes, aquatic plants, insects, and weeds.

The length of a Trumpeter swan is 183 cam from head to tail and has a wingspan of 2.5 meters.

The beautiful bird weighing up to 13 kg has a separate fan base attracting many local and foreign tourists.

However, Trumpeter swans are often endangered due to the impact of anthropogenic activities on wetlands.

9. Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle in the blue sky
Scientific NamePolemaetus bellicosus
Size78 – 96 cm
Weight4.71 kg
Wingspan2.6 m
Life expectancy16 years
HabitatSub Saharian Habitat
Speed230 km per hour
Conservation StatusEndangered

Have you heard of an eagle capable of knocking an adult man off his feet? Presenting the largest eagle breed, Martial Eagle.

The eagle native to the Sub-Saharan desert weighs up to 4.71 kg and can break a man’s arm with its foot.

It has a relatively short body as compared to others on the list of 96 cm and has a wing span of 2.6 meters.

The scariest aspect of Martial Eagles is their speed of 230 km/hr, with a sharp vision to stalk their prey, small mammals, insects, reptiles, and other birds.

Despite a strong body and amazing speed, the carnivore is endangered due to its direct persecution and habitat loss.

10. Eurasian Black Vulture

Eurasian Black Vulture
Scientific NameAegypius monachus
Size98 – 120 cm
Weight9.55 kg
Wingspan2.5 – 3.1 m
Life expectancy35 years
HabitatSemi-Open habitat
Speed69 km per hour
Conservation StatusNear Threatened

The largest old-world vulture is often referred to as the Eurasian black vulture, Cinereous vulture, Monk Vulture, or just black vulture.

This largest bird of prey has a wingspan of 3.1 meters and a 98 – 120 cm length. Even with a weight of 9.55 kg, they can fly at a speed of 69 km per hour.

These carnivores reside in semi-open habitats such as meadows, where they can fly high and look for prey.

These wonderful species are on the verge of extinction due to poisoning. The baits to hunt other predators, such as wild dogs, which have toxic chemicals, are often consumed by black vultures.

There are currently 7800-10500 Pairs of these vultures worldwide.

Absolute Record Holder of All Time

These are the current birds with the records for size and weight. But the absolute records are held by already extinct species: Pelagornis sandersi and Argentavis magnificens. 

1. Pelagornis sandersi 

Pelagornis Sandersi compared to Chilensis and wandering albatross
Scientific NamePelagornis sandersi
Size120-140 cm
Weight20-40 kg
Wingspan7.4 m
Fossil Discovered in1983
Discovered atCharleston International Airport, South Carolina

With a wingspan measuring about 7.4 meters, Pelagornis sandersi was almost twice as wide as the wandering albatross, the largest living bird with the largest wingspan of 3.5 meters.

P. sandersi existed about 25 million years ago. The first fossils – a skull with some wing and leg bones – were discovered in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1983. 

Researcher Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University in Raleigh has officially described it and determined its size and flight pattern. According to his estimates, its wingspan could be 7.4 meters.

The skeletons of birds often survive the petrification process only in fragments because they are hollow on the inside, which favors their ability to fly. 

As the genus, Pelagornis already suggests, the species belongs to the so-called Pelagornithidaeor pseudo-toothed birds, an extinct family of seabirds that could grow very large and have a distinctive feature of a toothed beak. These teeth probably made it easier for them to catch fish on the high seas.

These giants could fly despite their enormous dimensions and the associated weight, which Ksepka deduced from the skeleton structure. 

Pelagornis sandersi had fragile, hollow bones to weigh less and very short legs but enormous wings: it could barely move on land but was optimally adapted to gliding over long distances over the sea – similar to today’s albatrosses. 

It had to start with a running start, such as running downhill against the wind or throwing itself into the air from high rocks.

But once they flew, they could glide extremely efficiently on their long, thin wings for long periods—sometimes tens of kilometers without flapping their wings. 

The giant birds existed for tens of millions of years after the dinosaurs died out, but for reasons that are still unknown, they disappeared three million years ago in the Pliocene.

2. Argentavis magnificent

Argentavis magnificens compared to the regular sized person
Scientific NameArgentavis magnificens
Size120-140 cm
Weight70-80 kg
Wingspan7 m
Speed70 km per hour

The largest bird that has ever lived on Earth is Argentavis magnificens. This flying giant reached a weight of 70-80 kilograms, and the wingspan was 7 meters. 

This bird specialized in soaring; the ascending air currents helped it gain height. 

With their help, Argentavis magnificens could take off to a height of 2-3 kilometers and fly 200-300 kilometers while never flapping their wings. Scientists believe that during the flight, the giant bird could reach a maximum speed of up to 70 km / h.

It was difficult for the largest bird in the world to take off, and judging by its size, this is not surprising; its size is comparable to a small plane. 

Accelerating downhill or jumping down a cliff was their only option to sore to the skies. Argentavis magnificens was a bird of prey and fed on small land animals. The giant lived about 6 million years ago in the territory of modern Argentina.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are wandering albatross rare?

Wandering albatross are rare species of birds with a world population of around 26,000 and are regarded as vulnerable.

Why do great white pelicans migrate to India?

Great white pelicans migrate to India and Eastern Europe for nesting. As these huge birds have excellent flight performance, migration is not a tough task for them.

Is mute swan really mute?

Not really! The mute swan is not mute. Though it has an explosive hissing sound when threatened, Its call during terrestrial defense is not similar to other species of swans.

When did the last Bony-toothed birds go extinct?

The last bony-toothed bird went extinct about 66 million years ago. The biomorphic changes caused the beak evolution in one of the heaviest birds, which caused halted their tooth development when extinction time arrived. The extinct bird weighed more than 43 kg and was considered a flightless bird.

What is Volant adaption in animals?

The volant adaptation is the ability of animals to fly. Mainly birds and insects have developed this feature to spend time on the lightest stay medium. The bird species that we discussed above with enormous size, slender wings, and massive wingspan are some examples of volant birds.

What is the biggest vulture in the world?

The cinereous vulture is the biggest vulture species in the world. It is also the largest apex predator with strong flight muscles. The foot bone of this predatory bird is designed for the efficient glider. A meter-long bird with 12.5 kg of weight can fly up to 6600 feet.

These birds mentioned above are absolute birds of prey worldwide, but they are not safe.

While some birds are heavy, huge, and also can fly, there is another bird that is not so heavy, can not fly, and his habitat is disappearing. Find out here to know what that bird is and its fascinating facts.

(Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dawadi is a Mountain Ecologist, an expert on the impact of climate change on humans, animals, and plant species. As an activist for animal welfare, he believes an animal's eyes can speak a great language of the planet's state and environmental condition.