Maybe when you think of heavy-flying birds, you picture eagles and other birds of prey. And while many are indeed heavy, the heaviest birds may not be what you expect. From terrestrial birds to waterfowl, big birds need the ability to move away from danger and find food or warmer grounds. Discover the top nine heaviest flying birds today and learn about their size, appearance, and habitat.
1. Great Bustard
There is debate over what is the heaviest-flying bird, but the great bustard is definitely a close first. Bustards are large terrestrial birds native to grasslands and farmlands in Central Europe and East Asia, with the highest population concentration in Spain and Portugal. Great bustards can measure up to 3.9 feet long and weigh up to 46 pounds! They also have a huge wingspan, measuring between 6.11 and 8.10 feet. Males are barred brown and black above and gray below with gray heads and necks. They also have long tufts of wispy hair protruding from their chins.
2. Kori Bustard
The kori bustard almost ties with the great bustard for the heaviest flying bird on earth today. And they are considered the heaviest flying bird in Africa. These ground-dwelling birds are found in densely wooded areas in South Africa, most common in Botswana and Namibia. The male kori bustard has an average length of 3.5 to 4.5 feet and a wingspan between 7.7 and 9 feet. Their average weight varies between 15 and 40 pounds, with the heaviest weighing up to 44 pounds. Some records indicate they can weigh up to 88 pounds, but these claims have not been verified. These birds have cryptic coloration in shades of gray, brown, black, and white.
3. Trumpeter Swan
The trumpeter swan is the longest and heaviest native bird of North America. They live in ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers, marshes, and other wetlands in Canada and the United States. They are one of the largest and heaviest birds capable of flight, measuring around 5 feet long, with the longest on record reaching 6 feet. Their wingspans can reach over 10 feet, and their weight reaches up to 38 pounds. Adult trumpeter swans are all-white with black bills. Juveniles are light gray with pink legs and bills.
4. Mute Swan
Mute swans are native and found naturally in temperate regions of Europe across Russia. They are also an introduced species to North America. You can find them in many aquatic habitats, from lakes and ponds to coastal estuaries. Adults can measure up to 5.5 feet long with a 7-foot wingspan. They are the second largest waterfowl species, with the trumpeter swan being the first. As one of the heaviest flying birds today, the mute swan can weigh up to 33 pounds. However, one record described this species weighing 51 pounds, but it is unknown if it could still fly. They have white plumage with dark gray legs and bright orange beaks with black around the nostrils.
5. Andean Condor
Andean condors are giant vultures from the Andes of South America. They are considered the largest flying bird in the world with a combined weight and height and one of the most enormous birds of prey on the earth. On average, they measure 3.3 to 4.3 feet long with a maximum wingspan of 10.10 feet. The average weight of male Andean condors is 28 pounds. They have all-black plumage with white feathers at the base of their necks and white bands on their wings. Their heads and necks are bald with reddish-black skin.
6. Dalmatian Pelican
The Dalmatian pelican is the largest in their family and one of the biggest freshwater birds worldwide. They live in lakes, deltas, rivers, and estuaries across a wide range in Central Eurasia. This species measures 5 to 6 feet long and weighs up to 33 pounds. They also have an impressive wingspan between 8 to 11.6 feet. Adults feature silvery-gray plumage, gray legs, and curly nape feathers. In winter, their feathers turn to a dingy brown-gray.
7. Eurasian Black Vulture
The Eurasian black vulture, also known as the cinereous vulture, inhabits hilly, mountainous areas across most of Eurasia. This species is the largest member of the Accipitridae family and the New World vultures. They can grow almost 4 feet long and weigh up to 31 pounds, with a wingspan of 8 to 10 feet. Unlike the other species on this list, female Eurasian black vultures tend to be slightly heavier than males. These birds are dark brown all over, except for their pale heads. The skin on their heads and necks is bluish-gray.
8. Himalayan Vulture
The Himalayan vulture is another Old World vulture and the second largest in the group. They are native to the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, where they live in high elevations and bask on rocks in the sun. Their coloring is dark brown and pale buff and features pale blue facial skin. They are the largest and heaviest bird in the Himalayas, weighing up to 28 pounds and producing an 8 to 10-foot wingspan. These vultures are very social, often found in large flocks, which can be intimidating given their size and location.
9. Wandering Albatross
The wandering albatross, or snowy albatross, is a very large seabird with a circumpolar range across the Southern Ocean. They are one of the biggest members in their genus and feature the greatest wingspan of any living bird. Their wingspan measures between 8.3 and 11.6 feet, with the largest officially recorded over 12 feet. There are also unverified reports of wandering albatross wingspans reaching over 17 feet! Their body length measures between 3.5 and 4.6 feet, and they can weigh up to 28 pounds. Males tend to be bigger and possess wider wings. They have white bodies with black and white wings and feature pale pink bills and feet.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com
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