Birds are fascinating creatures and they vary in size and type. Needless to say, there are between 9,000 and 11,000 thousands of bird species in the world. Each one of them is unique in its way and contributes to this world in a different unique way. Thanks to some bird species, scientists can study aerospace and aerodynamics. For example, the hummingbird is one of the smallest bird species and it can also fly in reverse which has fascinated scientists for the longest time. On the other hand, some birds like ostrich are unable to fly.
Birds have been evolving for millions of years. According to Natural History Museum the oldest bird fossils are about 150 million years old, which is quite old in terms of the existence of Earth. Birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs that were extinct a long time ago.
They evolved from theropods, which ate meat and belonged to the same group of dinosaurs that the notorious Tyrannosaurus Rex belonged to. Throughout those long years and millennia, birds evolved in the most diverse way possible.
Some developed thick feathers to combat the cold, some grew exceptionally large like emus and ostrich, and some developed unique flight mechanisms to fight predators. On the other hand, some birds developed have exceptionally large wings that allow them to look more intimidating against their predators, take them to really high altitudes, and cross large distances between seas and mountains.
There are many birds with large wingspan, but only some are considered the birds with the largest wingspan. In this article, we will compile a list of birds with the biggest wingspan.
Whether you’re studying just out of curiosity or are genuinely interested in learning how large wingspan helps birds survive, continue reading through our list and maybe you’ll discover some species you didn’t know about before.
8 Birds With the Biggest Wingspan
Here is a list of birds with the biggest wingspan. Be careful, some mentions will surprise you!
- Wingspan: 10-foot
- Lifespan: 25-43 years
- Weight: 10-18 lbs
Marabou storks are incredibly resourceful and fascinating animals, so it doesn’t surprise us that they made it to this list. They have an incredibly 10-foot wingspan, which allows them to cross vast distances. Oftentimes, these birds can be found in the zoo and generally in captivity so people are not aware of how capable their wings are.
However, if you’re looking to find them in nature, you’re more likely to find them near landfills. On average they can weigh from 12 to 15 pounds, but they can grow to weigh up to 18 lbs. They have dark feathers except for the white underside.
On rare occasions, these storks can grow to have an even larger wingspan of up to 13 feet, but that’s a rare occasion, and official documents report that it can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet. Although you will find them living from 20 to 25 years in the wild, in captivity they can survive for up to 43 years. They use special throat sacks to attract potential partners for mating.
Northern Royal Albatross
- Wingspan: 10-foot
- Lifespan: 20-50 years
- Weight: 14-18 lbs
Just like the Marabou Stork, Northern Royal Albatross also has a wingspan of around 10 feet. On rare occasions in the wild, specimens with larger wingspans can be seen. However, it’s worth noting that Northern Albatross is just slightly smaller than its cousin from the south – Southern Royal Albatross.
Albatrosses are white, but the wings of the Northern Royal Albatross can turn darker upper surfaces, which makes them easier to recognize. However, the southern cousin can also be recognized in the same way.
Even though this bird is magnificent for many reasons, one of them being the amazing wingspan, it’s important to note that this is an endangered breed that can only be found in New Zealand and Taiaroa Head, South Island, and the Chatham Islands.
Different conservation communities and organizations worked around the clock to preserve the legacy of these beautiful birds, that have among the largest wingspans in the world, and so far, that yielded great results as the numbers are growing.
One of the largest problems these birds are facing is global warming and temperature sensitivity, so they can hardly stand scorching days. On average, albatrosses can weigh up to 18 pounds and will feed off fish and other sea creatures living near the shore. They have special mating rituals that take place in the air and water and build large nests that can be found on the rocks near the shore.
- Wingspan: 11-feet
- Lifespan: 20-50 years
- Weight: 14-16 lbs
We can freely say that the Tristan albatross has only recently been recognized as a full albatross species and that was in 1988. It looks remarkably similar to other albatross species, so it may be difficult to recognize. What’s sure is that it has an incredibly large wingspan, just like its other cousins, and larger than that of the Northern Royal Albatrosses.
Just like its cousin, this albatross breed is also considered endangered, in fact critically endangered. They can mainly be found on the islands of the Tristan da Cunha group and Gough Island. Most of the world’s population can be found nesting on Gough Island, where about 1500 pairs can be found.
Sometimes, they can be found on Inaccessible Island. Just like the other albatross breeds, they eat fish that they hunt themselves or find near the shore. They take care of the nests and little ones but are quite sensitive to high temperatures. Both male and female albatrosses participate in the raising process of baby albatrosses.
- Wingspan: 11-12 feet
- Lifespan: 15-25 years
- Weight: 16-33 lbs
Dalmatian Pelicans are fascinating birds that travel a lot. They look slightly different compared to other Pelican birds. They are mostly native to Mongolia but they fly and travel a lot and can often be found spending the majority of their lives in Russia.
It’s important to note that many of these birds can be found flying above the Mediterranean coastline, hence the name Dalmatian. It can have a wingspan from 11 to 12 feet which makes them among the largest birds by wingspan. They can grow pretty large and weigh up to 33 pounds.
What makes them different compared to the other pelican birds is their quite large and colorful beak. An additional fun fact about these pelicans is that their beak will turn bright orange during the mating season.
The hormones and chemicals being released change the color of their beak and that way they can attract other birds for the mating season. Normally, it’s similar to that of other pelicans and will be dull yellow.
These birds can be found living in deltas, rivers, lakes, as well as the sea in the Mediterranean. They are much different compared to other pelicans like the Great White pelican because they can fly to higher altitudes and sometimes live in the mountains.
- Wingspan: 10-11 feet
- Lifespan: 60 years
- Weight: 20-25 lbs
California Condor is the largest bird in North America. With making it to this list, it has among the largest wingspan among all birds in the world.
However, California Condor looks much different compared to other birds with a large wingspan. Its appearance can even be called a bit bizarre. It has large, thick black feathers which create a ruffling texture around the neck and head of a large bird.
But just like other vultures, California Condor has a bald top of the head. Similarly, with other vultures, California Condor has a long lifespan which can last well up to 60 years, and oftentimes over it. Some California Condors can live up to 70 years if they are healthy.
Many people are intimidated by birds such as California Condor, to the point many believe that due to its size and strength, it could lift a human. However, California Condor is a scavenger and not a hunter, so the chances it’d hunt prey that is still alive is less than likely. They’d not approach humans unless they are dead, because they are wary when around humans.
- Wingspan: 10-10.2 feet
- Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Weight: 24-28 lbs
The Black Vulture is also known as the American Vulture and is considered one of the larger birds in the Americas. Predominantly, it can be found in Southern America, but it also lives in the mountains in Mexico, as well as in The United States.
Its wingspan can reach up to 10 feet in length, and sometimes they may exceed that length. Unlike the aforementioned vultures, The Black Vulture, no matter how intimidating their name may be are quite social birds and will hang out with other vultures and even form flocks to stay safer against their predators and potential hunters.
They often hang out with other flock animals and may even fly and follow turkey vultures. Given they’re scavengers they’re not going to hunt for prey or kill the animal. Instead, they’ll wait for other predators and hunters to kill their prey or animal and then feed on the leftovers.
They are quite resourceful and will help other vultures find potential food sources. They can also survive without food for a long time.
Vultures also have a strong symbolic value in The Americas and are often associated with rebirth. In some countries like Chile, Peru, and other countries in Southern America, they are even considered sacred animals.
- Wingspan: 11-12 feet
- Lifespan: 50 years
- Weight: 20-30 lbs
The Andean Condor may be one of the most bizarre birds you’ve ever seen, but it’s the largest bird in the world with combined wingspan and weight measurements. It is the only member of the genus Vultur and as its name suggests, it can be found in the Andes mountains, as well as the western coasts in western South America, which means it prefers the Pacific climate.
In addition to that, it’s the national symbol of Chile and is oftentimes adorned with strong symbolism in Chile and surrounding South American countries including Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Colombia.
It’s not considered critically endangered but it’s worth noting it’s considered vulnerable, which is why many conservation communities urge to make efforts to preserve this species.
It usually doesn’t hunt and will feed on leftovers of dead animals. However, it prefers to feast on very large meals, so it may even set an eye on dead domestic animals. It’s important to note that Andean Condors make some of the most important clean-up crew animals in the ecosystem.
They also have a long lifespan and can live up to 50 years. The oldest known Andean Condor lived up to 80 years old.
- Wingspan: 10.2-12.1 feet
- Lifespan: 50-60 years
- Weight: 13-28 lbs
It’s no secret that all albatross species and breeds are quite large, given that there are a total of three Albatross species in this compilation. Needless to say, the Wandering Albatross is the largest wingspan animal in the world, topping even its cousins Northern and Southern Royal Albatross.
Its wings can reach up to 12.1 feet when spread, even though many species come close in this size. Several reports say that its wings may even be longer, but it’s up to The Guinness Book of Records to make this claim, given that it’s the largest wingspan of any living bird species.
The Albatross may spend its entire life flying up in the sky. It loves crossing large distances and is believed to travel over 70,000 miles a year, changing distance from one place to another pretty fast. It may pass over 800 miles in a day.
With that in mind, given such large and reliable wings, it’s safe to say that albatross will only land down to eat, catching fish and other seafood surrounding the shores, or rocks where it may hunt. The only other time it will come down to the ground is for breeding and creating a nest for its little ones.
The Wandering albatross is one of the most fascinating birds despite the record it broke regarding the wingspan and we’re glad we included it in this list.