Which Are the World’s Biggest Birds?

What are the biggest birds in the world? Not just the tallest or longest birds, but also the most powerful or the heaviest birds. Read on!

Jul 10, 2023By Abigail van der Hoeven
biggest birds

There is a ton of variety in the bird kingdom, from tiny hummingbirds to majestic eagles–a modest guinea hen to the resplendent peacock. Birds are found all over the world, thriving in almost every ecosystem. When it comes to looking at some of the world’s largest birds, there is still a ton of variety, from desert birds to ocean fliers. All these birds are big in their own right, but some are also fast, strong, or heavy too. So, let’s look at some of the world’s biggest avian species.

The World’s Tallest and Heaviest Bird

ostrich black grasslands

The world’s biggest bird is also the tallest and heaviest bird, the common ostrich. The ostrich can reach heights of up to 9 feet and can weigh up to 350 pounds! Because it is so big and so heavy, the common ostrich, like all ostriches, is flightless. However, this bird makes up the difference by being the fastest animal that runs on two legs. Ostriches can run up to 42mph, and their powerful legs are also incredibly powerful in self-defensive kicking.

The common ostrich lives in the savannahs, grasslands, and semi-arid woodlands of Africa. Because ostriches live in dry and sandy climates, they have developed the ability to go days without water. Instead, they generate water internally or extract water from the vegetation they eat. The Somali ostrich is a near relative of the common ostrich and gets to be nearly as large, reaching heights of 8.8 feet and weighing up to 280 pounds full-grown. The Somali ostrich is also a fast runner and can cover 16 feet in a single stride.

The Bird with the Biggest Wingspan

albatross flying sky

A bird’s wingspan is the distance from one tip of its wing to the other with both wings stretched out. The bird with the widest wingspan is the wandering albatross. This seabird has an impressive wingspan of 11 to 12 feet! This massive wingspan allows the bird to glide for long times without needing to flap. This is helpful since the wandering albatross spends most of its lifetime in the air, over the water, only landing to feed or breed. For as large as this bird is, it weighs only about 16 pounds. Wandering albatrosses are found in the Southern Ocean, flying over the Antarctic oceans and subtropical waters.

The World’s Strongest Bird

great harpy eagle

While there are lots of big birds, most do not need to be strong. Even most raptors don’t need to carry anything bigger than a fish or small rodent. For example, the great bald eagle can only lift about 6 to 8 pounds. That is part of what makes the great harpy eagle so impressive. The great harpy eagle is the strongest lifting bird in the world, able to lift up to 30 pounds at once, with some occasionally able to lift 40 pounds! Harpy eagles are found from southern Mexico to Brazil. Their talons are 4-5 inches long, which is the same as a grizzly bear, and their grip can easily crush bone. Their prey includes monkeys and sloths.

The World’s Heaviest Flying Bird

dalmation pelican water

Most of the world’s biggest birds can’t fly because of how heavy they are. Ostriches, emus, and cassowaries are all huge birds, but given that they weigh well over a hundred pounds, they are destined to be flightless. The world’s heaviest bird that can still fly is the Dalmatian pelican. This bird weighs 33 pounds and is 5.7 feet tall. It is not only the heaviest flying bird, but it is also one of the largest flying birds. It lives in Eurasia, making its home in lakes and rivers in southeastern Europe, Russia, India, and China. It is a very social bird and travels in flocks. Not only are they powerful fliers, but they are powerful swimmers as well, and individuals often mate for life.

Two other birds worth mentioning in the category are the trumpeter and mute swans. At 5.5 feet tall and 30 pounds, these two species of swan easily fit in the category of two of the world's heaviest flying birds.

The World’s Largest Flying Land Birds

condor flying mountains

The wandering albatross may be the biggest flying bird when it comes to wingspan, and the Dalmatian pelican may be the heaviest flying bird, but what about the biggest flying land bird? Specifically, raptors? The Californian and Andean condors are the largest flying land birds in the Americas. The Californian condor is 4.5 feet tall, and while the Andean condor is a bit smaller at 3.9 feet, it is both heavier at 30 pounds and has a wider wingspan reaching a width of up to 10 feet. Both species are scavengers and feed on dead animals.

Other Big Birds Worth Mentioning

colorful cassowary

There are a lot of other very big birds, especially tall and heavy birds like the ostrich. The emu is like a shaggy, slightly smaller Australian ostrich that weighs 130 pounds and is 6.2 feet tall. Cassowaries are colorful birds native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. Depending on the species, they can reach heights of 5.9 feet and weigh up to 190 pounds. These flightless birds are all very fast and have powerful, even dangerous, legs and feet. The southern cassowary has been known to attack humans in self-defense.

There are lots of other big birds, including the shoebill stork, the marabou stork of southern Africa, the greater rhea of South America, the domestic turkey of North America, the emperor penguin of Antarctica, bald eagles, Steelers hawks, and golden eagles. The world is full of a variety of flying and flightless big birds to observe and learn about so we can learn to appreciate them and preserve and protect them and their habitats.

Abigail van der Hoeven
By Abigail van der Hoeven

Abigail grew up with many pets, from a sweet Golden Retriever to raising her school of tadpoles. She has three years of experience writing for the animal and pet niche. She has a lifetime of hands-on experience with all animals, including dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, frogs, and more. She has three adorable guinea pigs: Guinevere, Tater Tot, and the most recent addition - baby Duncan! Abigail enjoys being outside, writing fiction, or kicking it back with a good tv comedy.