The Top 9 Largest Flying Birds in the World By Wingspan

Written by Rebecca
Updated: November 12, 2022
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Key Points

  • The largest flying bird by wingspan is the wandering albatross. The official maximum wingspan on record is 12.1 feet. But there are unverified accounts of a wandering albatross with a wingspan potentially measuring 17 feet, 5 inches.
  • Second place for the largest bird in the world goes to the great white pelican and its 12-foot wingspan. Males can weigh as much as 33 pounds.
  • The southern royal albatross takes the third largest bird in the world, with a 12-foot wingspan but a smaller body than the great white pelican.

There are over 10,000 species of birds in the world. Some, like the bumblebee hummingbird, are very small. Others, like the common ostrich, do not fly. What is the largest bird in the world? If you consider birds that fly, then these are the largest birds in the world by wingspan.

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#9. Marabou Stork – 10-foot Wingspan

The Marabou stork, sometimes called the undertaker bird, lives in wet and arid areas south of the Saharan Desert. This bird that typically lives near landfills weighs up to 17 pounds. This black bird looks like it is wearing white underpants, especially when viewed from the rear.

There are isolated reports of birds with wingspans up to 13 feet. These birds reach sexual maturity when they are about four years old, and they mate for life. They are scavengers who can often live near human settlements.

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In captivity, these storks can live up to 20 years, although, the lifespan while in the wild is unknown. Marabou Storks have hollow leg and toe bones. For this reason, this type of bone structure is vital for flight. Furthermore, the pouches on their throats are not used for food storage like some other birds. Their large throat sacks are used for attracting a mate.

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The Marabou Stork has a wingspan of up to 13 feet.

©Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

#8. Northern Royal Albatross – 10-foot Wingspan

Also referred to as the toroa, the northern royal albatross has a wingspan of 10 feet. Slightly smaller than its southern cousin, this seabird can be recognized by its wings which have a mostly dark, upper surface.

This endangered bird lives on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, Taiaroa Head, and South Island. While there is still reason for concern, the number of these birds is steadily increasing.

South Island, New Zealand, is home to the northern royal albatross.

©Nokuro/Shutterstock.com

This is thanks in no small part to conservation efforts which make nesting easier and safer. They include a sprinkler system on their favorite nesting site at Taiaroa Head to stave off heat sensitivity on hot days. They also include the placing of handy cotton balls drenched in peppermint essence in nests (by conscientious staff) to mask the smell of albatross eggs in order to prevent flystrike.

This bird weighs about 16 pounds and does not mate until it is eight years old. That said, it is relatively long-lived and can live for up to 40 years. It feeds on fish that are dead or dying near the surface of the water.

These birds perform elaborate mating rituals on the water and in the air. They build large nests using plant materials on the shoreline. Both the male and the female help to incubate the eggs and raise the young.

The Northern Royal Albatross doesn't mate until it turns eight years old.
The Northern Royal Albatross doesn’t mate until it turns eight years old.

#7. Andean Condor – 11-foot Wingspan

The Andean condor lives in the Andes mountains. It is the national symbol of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. This bird that weighs about 29 pounds is listed as vulnerable. Once this bird is air-bound, it seldom flaps its wings but soars through the air. This black bird with a bit of white on it can live to be 50 years old. It reaches sexual maturity at about six and mates for life.

This scavenger bird is the only one to show sexual dimorphism. Males have a large red comb on the crest of their heads. They have no syrinx, so they cannot vocalize. When they are feeding near a vessel, you may hear them make clucking or hissing sounds.

The Andean Condor can live to be 50 years old.
The Andean Condor can live to be 50 years old.

©Gus Martinie/Shutterstock.com

#6. Antipodean Albatross -11-foot Wingspan

One of the largest flying birds by wingspan, the Antipodean albatross is a South Pacific endangered bird. While you can see it in many locations, all return to New Zealand’s Auckland Islands, Antipodes Islands, and Campbell Island to breed. This bird can weigh up to 19 pounds. It has an 11-foot wingspan.

This bird only lays eggs every two years, with each returning to the area where it was born to lay its eggs. These birds do not become independent until they are about 250 days old and do not become sexually mature until they are seven years old. Both males and females share responsibility for incubating the eggs and raising the young.

The Antipodean Albatross only lays eggs every two years.
The Antipodean Albatross only lays eggs every two years.

©Imogen Warren/Shutterstock.com

#5. Tristan Albatross -11-foot Wingspan

The Tristan albatross lives in the South Atlantic Ocean. Its 11-foot wingspan helps it forage over a lot of territories. It breeds almost entirely on Gough Island. Females feed east of the island, where you can see all the way to South Africa, while males forage west of the island, where you can see them all the way to South America.

These critically endangered birds only breed every other year, and they mate for life. The adult birds return in November to the island. Females lay their eggs in open heath where there is plenty of room to soar when taking off. Once hatched, chicks do not leave the nesting area until November. This bird does not become sexually mature until it is 10 years old.

The Tristan Albatross doesn't mature until it becomes 10 years old.
The Tristan Albatross doesn’t mature until it becomes 10 years old.

©Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

#4. Dalmatian Pelican-12-foot Wingspan

The Dalmatian pelican is a native of Mongolia, but most live in Russia. You can also find this species living in freshwater lakes and wet habitats near the Mediterranean coastline. This bird that has a 12-foot wingspan is the largest member of the pelican family. It can weigh up to 33 pounds. Most of this pelican’s diet is fish.

This near-threatened species has a disheveled off-white appearance. It has one of the largest beaks of the pelican family. The beak is a dull yellow most of the year, but it turns bright orange during mating season. It flies in flocks with its neck held back like a heron.

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The Dalmatian Pelican can weight up to 33 pounds.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

#3. Southern Royal Albatross- 12-foot Wingspan

The Southern royal albatross has a wingspan of 12 feet making it one of the largest flying birds by wingspan. It lives mainly in South American waters, but most return to subantarctic Campbell Island when it is time to lay their eggs. To move from South America to Campbell Islands, they circumnavigate the globe. They eat a diet of fish caught from the water’s surface or slightly below.

Southern royal albatrosses usually breed for life, but some have split up. Females lay one-to-two eggs in November, which hatch in January. The male and female take turns caring for the young until the following November.

The Southern Royal Albatross only lays one to two eggs each year.
The Southern Royal Albatross only lays one to two eggs each year.

©AndreAnita/Shutterstock.com

#2. Great White Pelican – 12-foot Wingspan

The great white pelican with its massive 12-foot wingspan is the runner-up on this list of the biggest bird in the world in terms of wingspan. This bird lives in swamps and shallow lakes from southeastern Europe through Asia and Africa. Males can weigh up to 33 pounds, while females weigh up to 20 pounds. Breeding takes place mainly in South Africa but can also occur in Russia, Turkey, and Northern Greece.

This bird is a very social animal that feeds in groups of six to eight. The birds will form a circle around a school of fish and dip their beaks in unison. Then, when they lift their head and the pouch in their beaks forces out the water, leaving them with a delicious mouthful of fish. Their diet, however, is not restricted to marine life. They can also be foragers who often eat the chicks of other bird species.

Pelicans are distinguished from other birds because all 4 of their toes are webbed!
Pelicans are distinguished from other birds because all 4 of their toes are webbed!

©meunierd/Shutterstock.com

The world is full of amazing birds with large wingspans. Learn about them and get involved in the efforts to protect their habitat.

#1. Wandering Albatross – 12.1 foot wingspan

Introducing the largest bird in the world in terms of its wingspan. The Wandering Albatross (maximum verified wingspan of 3.7 meters / 12.1 feet) narrowly beats out the Great White Pelican (maximum wingspan of 3.6 meters / 11.8 feet) on average by a few inches of wingspan. 

A Beautiful Wandering Albatross Soaring off the Coast of New Zealand
A Beautiful Wandering Albatross Soaring off the Coast of New Zealand

©Kerry Hargrove/Shutterstock.com

The wandering albatross lives mostly on the wing above the world’s southern seas. As one of the largest birds living, it has been the subject of numerous studies. As a result, researchers have compiled an extensive list of facts about the species. Although the average wingspan of the wandering albatross is about 10 feet from wingtip to wingtip, unverified accounts report measurements up to 17 feet, 5 inches.

These majestic birds can soar for hours without flapping their wings once, and they only stop flying to feed and breed. They travel a staggering distance of 75,000 miles per year, which is like making almost two full trips around the entire planet.

Largest Flying Birds by Wingspan

RankBirdWingspan
#1Wandering Albatross12.1 feet
#2Great White Pelican12 feet
#3Southern Royal Albatross12 feet
#4Dalmation Pelican12 feet
#5Tristan Albatross11 feet
#6Antipodean Albatross11 feet
#7Andean Condor11 feet
#8Northern Royal Albatross10 feet
#9Marabou Stork10 feet

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Tristan Albatross header
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About the Author

My name is Rebecca and I've been a Professional Freelancer for almost a decade. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessing over cats and pet rats.

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