Birds are some of nature’s most marvelous creatures. They are the only animals that sport feathers. These, along with having hollow bones and other special skeletal features, give them the ability to fly. Feathers also have many other important uses, such as thermoregulation and elaborate displays. Birds are, essentially, living dinosaurs. It’s no surprise that they hold some fascinating world records. From smallest to heaviest, strongest feet to longest lifespan, here’s a look at some bird world records. We like to consider them bird Olympic champions! Here are some of the world’s most amazing birds!
Smallest Bird: Bee Hummingbird
The tiny Bee Hummingbird of Cuba measures only 2.24 inches long (5.7 cm), and weighs 1.6 g. Its appearance and flight even rival that of some insects, particularly, as you guessed it, bees. It is also the bird with the smallest nest ever recorded, only 2 cm in diameter and depth. Likely too, it takes the prize for the smallest bird eggs in the world at 12.5 mm x 8.5 mm. A Bee Hummingbird egg is half the weight of a standard paper clip! It is truly one of the most amazing birds!
Largest Bird: Ostrich
A highlight of any African safari is seeing the impressive Ostrich, the largest bird in the world. Males can reach 2.8 m in height and weigh over 150 kg (340 lbs)! At that size there’s no way this bird can get airborne, but it is impressive, nonetheless. The Ostrich is also the fastest running bird, easily reaching speeds of 72 km/h (45 mph). Furthermore, it can sprint up to nearly 100 km/h (60 mph) for short distances, taking 12-foot strides! The Ostrich also holds the record for the largest egg, weighing in at 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs.).
In the fossil record, the massive elephant birds stood over 3 m tall and weighed over 500 kg. It became extinct only just 300 years ago. The tallest bird ever was the Giant Moa of New Zealand. It reached heights of 3.7 m, but weighed half as much as the elephant birds due to its slender build. It went extinct around 1500 AD.
Heaviest flying bird: Kori Bustard
The Kori Bustard of the African plains holds the record as the world’s heaviest flying bird. Adult male Kori Bustards can weigh up to 42 lbs. (19 kg). Other heavy birds, such as the Great Bustard, Mute Swan and Dalmatian Pelican are also capable flyers. None of these birds likely fly very far; sustained flight usually only occurs in birds weighing less than 26 lbs. (12 kg).
Fastest Flying Bird: Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is well known for its speed. In a stoop (dive), it has been recorded at speeds of over 180 km/h (112 mph). This fast flyer is known to prey on over 1000 species of birds throughout its worldwide distribution. When it dives, it punches its prey out of the air with such force of impact, it as if the pigeon or duck has been hit at full speed with a baseball bat.
Biggest Wingspan: Wandering Albatross
With a wingspan of 12 feet (3.6 m), the Wandering Albatross soars seemingly effortlessly over the open oceans of the southern hemisphere. Surprisingly, the long, narrow wings of this big, heavy bird can support it for many hours in the air. However, in order to get airborne, it needs to take a running start, just like a plane taking off from a runway.
Longest distance migrant: Arctic Tern
The Arctic Tern holds a huge record for making the longest migration of any bird. At only 4 ounces in weight, this small seabird makes an annual trip around the world. It flies from its breeding grounds in Greenland and the Arctic Circle, zigzagging its way south to Antarctica and back. This journey covers a distance of 71,000 km (44,000 miles)! Arctic Terns can have a lifespan of up to 30 years, so it is estimated that they travel up to 2.4 million kilometers in their lifetime. This is equal to three trips to the moon and back! They zigzag, sometimes making detours of thousands of kilometers, in order to avoid flying into the wind. They make stops to feed on fish and crustaceans along the way.
Strongest Claws & Feet: Harpy Eagle
It’s no surprise that this recognition goes to the world’s most powerful raptor, and one of Panama’s most amazing birds, the Harpy Eagle. It is one of the largest predatory birds in the world. Harpy Eagles are capable of taking on prey up to their own weight or more! Items on its menu include howler monkeys, two-toed sloths, peccaries, deer, and a variety of medium-sized rainforest animals. They are also known to prey on domestic pigs and goats when the opportunity arises. They have huge, powerful feet armed with a 3-4 inch (7-9 cm) long hind claw, the same size as a grizzly bear claw!
Longest Bill: Sword-billed Hummingbird
The Sword-billed Hummingbird has the longest bill of any bird relative to its body size. It is a fairly large hummingbird (14 cm/5.5 in), with a bill extending more than 10 cm in length! Its long bill is adapted for reaching deep into trumpet-shaped flowers on which it feeds. Surprisingly, this Andean dweller is agile enough to maneuver its long bill into some hummingbird feeders. Due to its long bill, it has had to change some of its behaviors. Preening, for example, is taken care of successfully with its feet.
Sharpest hearing: Barn Owl
Owls have well-developed ears, but the Barn Owl has such great hearing that it is known to catch its prey in complete darkness! It is said to hear the heartbeat of a mouse. The facial feathers that make up a disc are specialized to direct sounds into its huge, offset ears. This makes the Barn Owl the most successful auditory predator around.
Other Bird World Record Achievements
As you can imagine, the list of bird achievements is exhaustive. The above bird world records are just the tip of the iceberg! Here are some other cool bird facts & records that we find interesting. Read on for more examples of the most amazing birds on Earth!
Longest Legs: Lesser Flamingo
Standing 1.5 m tall, it has legs that measure 68 cm long, nearly half its own height! While they look very un-proportioned, Lesser Flamingos are surprisingly coordinated and graceful.
Longest Toes: Jacanas
Among other fascinating attributes, Jacanas have toes that are up to 20 cm in length! These long toes allow them to walk on top of aquatic vegetation. Jacanas are so well adapted that they even nest on floating vegetation.
Biggest Mouth: Tawny Frogmouth
These relatives of nightjars have a huge gape, about 5 cm wide. It is ideal for catching large insects, as well as lizards, frogs and even small mammals and birds. With that huge mouth, they usually swallow their prey whole!
Lightest Bones: Great Frigatebird
This large seabird is known to have the lightest skeleton of any bird, only 5% of its total weight. In fact, a complete skeleton of a frigatebird is actually even lighter than all their feathers!
Longest Lifespan: Royal Albatross
The huge Royal Albatross of New Zealand is the longest living bird ever recorded in the wild. Females are recorded breeding at approximately 60 years of age. Breeding age is achieved by about 10 years of age. Normally albatross in general live 40 years or more.
Loudest Call: Three-wattled Bellbird
From the highest perches in its range, the male bellbird opens its large mouth and emits a loud “bock” sound. This strange call carries up to 1.6 km (1 mile)! It is a treat to hear and see these members of the Cotinga family during a visit to western Panama.
Highest Migration: Bar-headed Goose
While their migration might not be the longest, these geese are known for flying at the highest elevation. They reach altitudes of over 8000 m, regularly passing over the peaks of Mount Everest. Amazing!
Strongest Stomach: Bearded Vulture
Over 70% of the diet of the enormous Bearded Vulture is bone marrow. It has a very specialized stomach with more acid than other birds. It can swallow bones up to 25 cm in length. How does it break open larger bones? It drops them on rocks from great heights!
Biggest Appetite: Cuban Tody
This tiny bird has the fastest feeding rate of all birds. It typically catches and eats up to 1500 food items, usually insects, a day. This number is even greater during breeding season when it has nestlings to feed!
Those Amazing Birds
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into some of the fascinating bird world records. The idea of holding a Bird Olympics would marvel even the most doubtful spectators. Birds are truly remarkable animals, with countless ways to impress us, such as these bird world records. By learning more about birds in general, we hope that it builds a sense of respect for these amazing creatures. Furthermore, we gain a desire to conserve them and their habitats. So the next time you watch a bird, think about what it might be doing that is unique and, perhaps even, record-breaking!
Some information in this post about bird world records has been adapted from “Extreme Birds” by Dominic Couzens.