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What is the biggest bird? - And other bird records!

Updated: May 9, 2023

Do you wonder about the avian physical extremes of this big, blue marble? Join us, as we discuss the best flocking bird records from around the globe!

A Common Ostrich feeds in the savannah.
How can something so goofy-looking, be so dangerous? This Common Ostrich is adept at defending itself from lions!

Knowing bird records may not make you the life of the party, but at least you can impress your grandmother! Wait, are you the grandmother? Then impress your grandchildren by spouting off about the most impressive bird records of North America and the world!


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Before we start, we would like to help you maximize your bird knowledge with the Handbook of Bird Biology!

 

What is the largest bird in the world? What is the tallest bird in the world?

When it comes to the word 'largest,' we must ask ourselves two questions. Does large mean length/height or weight? In the bird world, both questions can be answered with a single species. The largest AND tallest living bird species in the world is the Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus). How large is this behemoth of a bird? The Common Ostrich can reach 9 feet in height and 345 pounds in weight!


Silly Flocking Thoughts: The amount of buffalo sauce that would be needed for these drumsticks is unreasonable.


What is the largest bird in the US and Canada?

The majority of our flock members are North American readers. Satisfying the local curiosity is as important to us as clueing you in on the birds of the world. For those of us in the United States and Canada, the largest (heaviest) bird is the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator). The Trumpeter Swan can weigh up to 32 pounds. The American White Pelican is close behind the swan, but the swan holds it off.


However, the Trumpeter Swan is NOT the tallest bird in North America, only measuring up to 4 feet tall. From bill tip to tail, the Trumpeter Swan can measure close to 6 feet in length.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: Trumpeter Swans are thicc. We had to look up what thicc meant. We stand by this thought. Do not look up the word thicc.

A pair of Trumpeter Swans swim in a wetland.
Check out these 'thicc' Trumpeter Swans.
 

Want to learn North American bird identification? Check out the Sibley Guide to Birds!

 

What is the tallest bird in the US and Canada?

While the Trumpeter Swan is the largest bird in North America, it is more of a stumpy-legged bird. The tallest bird in the United States and Canada is the highly endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana). Once driven to near extinction, this tall bird reaches peak heights of over 5 feet!


Silly Flocking Thoughts: I think we could take a Whooping Crane. In fact, we could certainly open a can of "whoop" @$$ on them. We would not bet on the Flocking Crew to take down an ostrich though.


What bird has the largest wingspan in the world?

The bird with the largest wingspan is not often seen by the average human. The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) has a wingspan that reaches lengths of up to 12 feet. So why is this long-winged species not frequently seen? The Wandering Albatross is highly pelagic, meaning the majority of its life is spent at sea. In fact, this albatross only comes to land once every two years when it is ready to breed.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: This bird is a true pirate. It only comes into port when it is prepared to shiver its timbers. Pirate double entendre.

A Wandering Albatross sits in open water.
Do you ever wonder and about the wanderer? Wandering Albatrosses are stunning seabirds!

What bird has the largest wingspan in the US and Canada?

While it is no Wandering Albatross, North America has a species with quite the wingspan. Often improperly identified as an oceanic-only bird, this species is seen across the often waterless, mid-continent. The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) has a wingspan capacity of up to 9.5 feet, which is the largest wingspan in the United States and Canada. Of course, we are not accounting for pelagic species that can occasionally be seen from shore.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: The word pelican likely originates from its bill shape which resembles an ax. We have never tried fishing with an ax before, but if pelicans have been successful for this long, maybe it is time to try a new method.

 

Take impressive photos of impressive birds!

Our favorite point-and-shoot camera is the Sony RX10 IV.

sony rx10 iv
 

What is the smallest bird in the world?

Hummingbirds are generally the family of birds with the smallest members. It should come as no surprise that the smallest species of bird in the world then, is a hummingbird. At 2 inches long and .006 pounds in weight, the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) holds the crown for being the world's smallest bird. How small is that? A penny is likely to weigh more than this tiny flying gem.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: The genus for this hummingbird is Mellisuga. This genus is derived from two Greek words, which translates roughly to 'honey-sucker.' We think Zach needs a new nickname...


What is the smallest bird in the US and Canada?

Staying on the hummingbird string, the smallest bird in the United States and Canada is the Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) with a maximum weight of 0.007 pounds and a length of around 3 inches.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: You think this bird is small and frail until you watch them chase a grizzly bear away from THEIR feeder.


What is the fastest bird in the world?

Any animal-loving nine-year-old could answer this question for us. The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is the fastest 'moving' bird in the world with stoops or dives of close to 225 mph being recorded. Another way to think of this? The Peregrine Falcon can dive the length of a football field in a second. Move over [insert famous track star name here].

Notice we did not call the Peregrine Falcon the fastest-flying bird in the world. Why? A dive or stoop is not the same as straight-line flight speed. I have heard enough falcon experts argue over the fastest straight-line flyer to stay away from the topic.


Silly Flocking Thoughts: If you ever see a Peregrine Falcon take down prey, it is almost unreal. You see a flash, an explosion of feathers, and the event is over before you can draw a gasping breath. Whew. That was not actually a silly thought. More of an observation.


Bird Records

Records are never as cut and dry as we try to make them appear, especially in the animal kingdom. Each record could be argued depending upon the perspective of those observing the record, so take any claims that do not offer some nuance with a grain of salt. We are still learning about birds, and as that cliche says, "Records are meant to be broken."


 

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