In here we show you top 10 largest living birds in the world. Birds, also known as avian dinosaurs or Aves, exhibit a wide range of sizes and weights, spanning from the tiny bee hummingbird measuring 5 cm (2 in) in length and weighing 1.6-2 grams, to the massive ostrich reaching 2.75 m (9 ft) in height and weighing 104-156 kg (229-344 lbs). Here are the top 10 largest bird species in the world based on body weight.
Birds belong to one of six primary animal groups: amphibians, fish, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, and birds themselves. They are warm-blooded vertebrates characterized by feathers, beaked jaws devoid of teeth, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a lightweight yet sturdy skeleton. Their reproduction involves laying eggs with hard shells, which are fertilized internally within the female. The fossil record confirms that birds are the sole surviving lineage of dinosaurs, leading them to be referred to as avian dinosaurs.
Table of Contents
- 10. Dalmatian Pelicans (Largest Living Birds)
- 09. Wandering Albatrosses (Largest Living Birds)
- 08. Great Bustards (Largest Living Birds)
- 07. Mute Swans (Largest Living Birds)
- 06. Domestic Turkeys (Largest Living Birds)
- 05. Greater Rheas (Largest Living Birds)
- 04. Emperor Penguins (Largest Living Birds)
- 03. Emus (Largest Living Birds)
- 02. Southern Cassowary (Largest Living Birds)
- 01. Ostrich (Largest Living Birds)
10. Dalmatian Pelicans (Largest Living Birds)
The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is an awe-inspiring creature, often hailed as the largest living bird of the pelican family and one of the largest birds in the world. With an average weight of 11.5 kg and a length of 183 cm, these magnificent birds are truly impressive. They are rivaled in size by swans in terms of length and weight. However, what truly sets them apart is their remarkable wingspan, which is similar in size to that of the great albatrosses. In fact, they are one of only four bird species known to have verified wingspans of over 350 cm, alongside the wandering albatross, the southern royal albatross, and the great white pelican.
Dalmatian pelicans can be found in various habitats, including lakes, rivers, and estuaries, primarily in southeastern Europe, Russia, India, and China. These birds have adapted to different bodies of water and are known to frequent wetland areas. Unfortunately, during the 20th century, the Dalmatian pelican population suffered a significant decline in numbers. The main cause of this decline is believed to be habitat loss resulting from the drainage of wetlands.
The draining of wetlands for agriculture, industrial development, and human settlements has had a detrimental impact on the Dalmatian pelican’s natural habitats. These birds depend on wetlands for breeding, nesting, and foraging, as these areas provide them with an abundant food supply of fish and other aquatic organisms. With the loss of wetlands, the availability of suitable breeding grounds and food sources for the pelicans has significantly diminished, leading to a decline in their population.
Conservation efforts have been implemented to address the decline of Dalmatian pelicans. Initiatives include the protection and restoration of wetland habitats, as well as the establishment of protected areas and nature reserves. By safeguarding these crucial ecosystems, conservationists aim to create suitable conditions for the pelicans to thrive once again.
09. Wandering Albatrosses (Largest Living Birds)
The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) holds the title for having the largest wingspan of any bird, measuring from 8.3 ft to 11 ft. This magnificent bird is native to the Southern and North Pacific Ocean. Albatrosses are part of a larger group consisting of 24 different species. Among them, the wandering albatross takes the crown as the largest, weighing up to 12 kg.
Wandering albatrosses primarily feed on small fish and squid, sustaining themselves through their oceanic voyages. They have a fascinating adaptation that allows them to drink saltwater, which is filtered out by special glands near their beaks. These birds spend most of their time gliding in the ocean winds and floating on the surface of the water. In fact, they are rarely found on land, as they are superbly adapted to a life at sea.
During the breeding season, wandering albatrosses gather in colonies on remote islands. They engage in elaborate courtship rituals and form long-term pair bonds. After mating, the female lays only one egg. Both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the chick. Interestingly, the young albatrosses make their first flight within a few months of hatching, equipped with the innate ability to glide effortlessly across the vast ocean.
The wandering albatross’s enormous wingspan allows it to soar gracefully for hours, taking advantage of wind currents to cover vast distances with minimal effort. This incredible adaptation enables them to navigate the expansive oceans in search of food and suitable breeding grounds.
While the wandering albatross is an awe-inspiring species, it faces several conservation challenges. These include threats from longline fishing practices, habitat degradation, and pollution. Efforts are underway to mitigate these risks and protect the albatross populations through measures such as fishing regulations, marine protected areas, and awareness campaigns.
08. Great Bustards (Largest Living Birds)
The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) and the Kori Bustard are recognized as some of the heaviest living flying animals. The Great Bustard is primarily found in central and southern Europe, as well as temperate Asia. Interestingly, Portugal and Spain are now home to approximately 60% of the world’s Great Bustard population.
The male Great Bustard stands at an average height of 90-105 cm (2 ft 11 in-3 ft 5 in) and has a length of approximately 115 cm (3 ft 9 in). They possess an impressive wingspan ranging from 2.1 to 2.7 m (6 ft 11 in-8 ft 10 in). In terms of weight, males can vary significantly, ranging from 5.8 to 18 kg (13 to 40 lb). On the other hand, females are considerably smaller, weighing between 3.1 and 8 kg (6.8 to 17.6 lb).
The Great Bustard’s robust build and large size make it a remarkable sight. These birds are known for their elaborate courtship displays during the breeding season. Males engage in complex dances and vocalizations to attract females, emphasizing their impressive size and plumage.
Historically, the Great Bustard population faced severe declines due to habitat loss and hunting. However, conservation efforts have been successful in certain regions, particularly in Portugal and Spain, where populations have stabilized and even increased. Conservation initiatives include habitat preservation, restoration of suitable grassland habitats, and measures to mitigate disturbances during the breeding season.
Protecting the Great Bustard is crucial not only for the survival of this magnificent species but also for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem balance. These birds play an important role in their habitats as seed dispersers and contributors to nutrient cycling.
07. Mute Swans (Largest Living Birds)
Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) hold the distinction of being the heaviest of all waterfowl, with an average weight of 11.87 kg. They typically measure around 100-130 cm in length. However, it is worth noting that Trumpeter Swans weigh slightly less at 11.6 kg on average but have a longer length ranging from 138 to 165 cm.
In addition to the standard Mute Swans, there is a unique morph known as the Polish Mute Swan cob (Cygnus immutabilis). This variation is pure white with pink legs instead of the usual black coloration. One individual of this morph has been verified as the largest bird to take flight, weighing an astounding 23 kg.
Mute Swans are known for their elegant appearance, with their graceful necks and striking white plumage. They are native to Europe and parts of Asia and have been introduced to various regions around the world. These swans are commonly found in lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, where they feed on aquatic vegetation, insects, and small aquatic animals.
Breeding pairs of Mute Swans form strong bonds that can last for life. During courtship displays, the swans engage in synchronized head and neck movements and vocalizations. The female typically lays a clutch of 4-7 eggs in a large nest made of plant material near the water’s edge.
While Mute Swans are admired for their beauty, they can also be aggressive, especially during the nesting season when they are protecting their young. It is important to maintain a safe distance and respect their space when encountering them in the wild.
Conservation efforts have been focused on managing Mute Swan populations in certain regions where they have become invasive or pose a threat to native waterfowl. Balancing the needs of these birds with the preservation of native ecosystems is crucial for maintaining a healthy and diverse bird population.
06. Domestic Turkeys (Largest Living Birds)
Domestic Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo f. domestica) are renowned for their impressive size, weighing up to 39 kg and standing as tall as 1.3 meters. They are actually the same species as their wild counterparts, which are native to North America. However, domestic turkeys have undergone selective breeding, resulting in their inability to fly due to their excessive weight.
Unlike wild turkeys, domestic turkeys have been bred for their large size and abundance of meat. As a consequence of their sedentary lifestyle and lack of flight, domestic turkeys do not utilize their breast muscles. This results in their breast meat being white in color, contrasting with the dark and gamey breast meat of wild turkeys.
The domestication of turkeys began thousands of years ago, and they have become an important source of poultry meat worldwide. They are commonly raised on farms for commercial purposes, particularly for their meat during festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The selective breeding of domestic turkeys has also resulted in variations in their appearance. Some breeds feature distinctive plumage colors and patterns, such as bronze, white, or black. These variations contribute to the aesthetic appeal of domestic turkeys and have made them popular in backyard flocks and exhibitions.
It is worth noting that while domestic turkeys have been bred for their size and meat production, this intensive breeding has led to certain health issues. Their excessive weight can cause mobility problems and increased susceptibility to diseases. Therefore, responsible breeding practices and proper care are essential to ensure the well-being of domestic turkey populations.
05. Greater Rheas (Largest Living Birds)
The Greater Rheas (Rhea americana) are fascinating flightless birds native to South America. They are also referred to as grey, common, or American rheas. These magnificent birds have an average mass of 23 kg and an average length of 134 cm, making them one of the largest living birds.
While their natural range spans various countries in South America, it is worth noting that a small population of Greater Rheas has established itself in Germany. In August 2000, one male and five females escaped from a farm, surviving the winter and successfully breeding. This population has since grown, and it is now estimated that there are about 250 birds. As these individuals are considered domestic, they are protected from hunting.
Another species of rhea, known as Lesser Rheas (Rhea pennata) or Darwin’s rhea, can be found in the Altiplano and Patagonia regions of South America. While smaller in size compared to the Greater Rheas, Lesser Rheas still boast impressive dimensions, with an average weight of 13.5 kg and an average length of 96 cm.
Both species of rheas are characterized by their large size, long legs, and distinctive plumage. They are known for their swift running ability, reaching speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph). Rheas have adapted to a herbivorous diet, feeding on a variety of plants, fruits, and seeds found in their natural habitats.
Conservation efforts for rheas focus on protecting their habitats and addressing threats such as habitat loss and hunting. These birds play an important ecological role as seed dispersers, contributing to the maintenance of plant diversity in their ecosystems.
04. Emperor Penguins (Largest Living Birds)
Emperor Penguins are truly remarkable creatures and hold the distinction of being the tallest and heaviest species of penguin. These magnificent birds can only be found in Antarctica, enduring the extreme cold and harsh conditions of the southernmost continent.
Emperor Penguins stand at an impressive height of up to 45 inches and can weigh up to 45 kg, making them the largest of all penguin species. Their size enables them to withstand the frigid temperatures of their icy habitat.
In their quest for food, Emperor Penguins embark on remarkable journeys, traveling up to 80 km to locate their prey. They are exceptional divers, capable of descending to depths of up to 1500 ft in search of fish, squid, and krill, which constitute their primary food sources.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Emperor Penguin behavior is their unique reproductive strategy. After mating, the female penguin lays a single egg and transfers it to the male for safekeeping. The male Emperor Penguin then assumes the responsibility of incubating the egg, sheltering it between his brood patch and his feet, keeping it warm despite the extreme cold. During this period, which can last for more than two months, the male penguin goes without eating, relying solely on his fat reserves for energy.
Meanwhile, the female penguins venture into the open oceans, covering great distances to gather food. They consume vast quantities of fish and krill, storing it in their bellies. After returning to the colony, the female penguins regurgitate this food to feed the newly hatched chicks.
This remarkable reproductive strategy allows Emperor Penguins to adapt to the challenging Antarctic environment, where food sources are limited and harsh conditions prevail. By synchronizing their breeding cycle with the availability of food, they maximize the chances of survival for their offspring.
03. Emus (Largest Living Birds)
Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) are fascinating birds that are endemic to Australia, meaning they are found exclusively on the continent. However, it is important to note that two subspecies of emus, namely the Tasmanian emu and King Island emu, became extinct after the European settlement of Australia in 1788.
Emus hold the distinction of being the second-largest living bird in terms of height, with only their close relative, the ostrich, surpassing them in size. These impressive birds can reach heights of up to 1.9 meters (6.2 ft). In terms of weight, emus vary significantly, ranging from 18 to 60 kg (40 to 132 lb). Females tend to be slightly larger than males, although the difference is not significant.
Emus are known for their impressive speed and agility. They are exceptional runners and can sprint at speeds of up to 48 km/h (30 mph). This remarkable swiftness allows them to evade predators and navigate their vast, arid habitats.
These birds have unique adaptations that enable them to thrive in Australia’s diverse landscapes. They possess long, powerful legs that aid in running and provide stability. Emus also have sharp beaks that are useful for foraging, as they primarily feed on vegetation, including fruits, seeds, and leaves. They have a specialized digestive system that allows them to extract maximum nutrients from their plant-based diet.
Emus play an important ecological role in their native habitats. They help disperse seeds through their consumption of fruits and contribute to the maintenance of plant diversity. Additionally, they have cultural significance for the Indigenous peoples of Australia, who have long-held connections and traditions associated with these majestic birds.
Conservation efforts are focused on preserving the remaining emu populations and protecting their habitats from threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation. Emus are also farmed for their meat, oil, and feathers, contributing to the economy and providing sustainable livelihoods in certain regions.
02. Southern Cassowary (Largest Living Birds)
The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), also known as the double-wattled cassowary, Australian cassowary, or two-wattled cassowary, is a fascinating and impressive bird. With an average weight of around 45 kg and a length of approximately 155 cm, they are among the largest living birds in the world. Southern cassowaries are native to the regions of north-eastern Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.
Another species, the Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus), also known as the single-wattled cassowary or golden-necked cassowary, closely resembles the Southern Cassowary. However, they are slightly smaller, with an average weight of about 44 kg and an average length of 149 cm. Northern cassowaries are endemic to the northern parts of New Guinea.
Both species of cassowaries share common characteristics, including their robust build, powerful legs, and distinctive casque, which is a bony crest on the top of their heads. These birds have large, strong claws on their feet, with a dagger-like claw on the inner toe that can be used for defense or as a formidable weapon.
Cassowaries inhabit dense tropical rainforests and other forested areas. They are primarily frugivorous, feeding on a variety of fruits, including fallen fruits, and dispersing seeds as they move through their habitats. Cassowaries play a vital role in maintaining forest ecosystems through their seed dispersal activities.
These birds are known for their striking appearance and unique features, making them iconic representatives of the regions they inhabit. However, they are also considered threatened species due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting pressure. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting their habitats and raising awareness about their ecological importance.
01. Ostrich (Largest Living Birds)
The ostrich (Struthio camelus) holds the title for being the largest living bird on Earth. These magnificent creatures are native to Africa and are well-known for their impressive size and unique characteristics.
An adult ostrich can weigh up to a staggering 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and can reach a maximum height of 6 feet (1.8 meters). In addition to their immense size, ostriches also hold records for other remarkable feats. They have the distinction of being the fastest-running bird on land, capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour). Furthermore, ostriches produce the largest eggs of any living bird species.
Ostriches have adapted to their environment as flightless birds, relying on their powerful legs to navigate the African savannahs. These legs are not only used for swift running but also serve as formidable weapons for self-defense. Ostriches have long, muscular legs with strong kicks that can be incredibly powerful, making them capable of warding off potential predators.
Their diet consists mainly of seeds, shrubs, fruits, flowers, and small insects. Ostriches are also known for their unique feeding behavior of swallowing pebbles and small stones, which help in grinding and breaking down the food in their gizzard. Remarkably, an ostrich can accumulate up to 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds) of pebbles and sand within its gizzard.
Ostriches have adapted to survive in arid environments and can tolerate long periods without water. They have specialized physiological adaptations that allow them to conserve water efficiently, enabling them to survive for several days without drinking.
These birds are social animals and typically live in groups of 10 to 50 individuals, led by a dominant male. Female ostriches lay impressive clutch sizes of up to 60 eggs in a year. Ostrich eggs are truly remarkable, measuring around 5.1 inches (13 centimeters) in diameter and weighing up to 1.4 kilograms (3.1 pounds). These large eggs have a thick and sturdy shell, providing protection for the developing embryos.
The ostrich’s extraordinary size, speed, and unique adaptations make it a truly remarkable species. While these iconic birds are farmed for their meat, feathers, and other products, efforts are being made to conserve their wild populations and protect their natural habitats in Africa. The ostrich continues to captivate the imagination and admiration of people around the world with its incredible size, speed, and distinctive characteristics.
In conclusion, the world is home to a diverse array of fascinating and remarkable bird species, including some of the largest living birds on Earth. From the majestic Dalmatian Pelicans and Wandering Albatrosses to the mighty Great Bustards and Mute Swans, these avian giants captivate us with their size, strength, and unique characteristics.
The natural world is truly awe-inspiring, and these largest living birds exemplify the incredible diversity and adaptability of bird species. Each bird has its own set of physical attributes, habitats, and behaviors that contribute to their survival and success in their respective environments.
These birds play crucial roles in ecosystems, whether it’s through seed dispersal, maintaining wetland habitats, or being indicators of environmental health. Understanding and conserving these magnificent creatures is vital for preserving biodiversity and ensuring the delicate balance of our planet.
While some of these birds face threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, there are ongoing efforts to protect and conserve their populations. Conservation organizations, researchers, and individuals around the world are working together to raise awareness, enact protective measures, and promote sustainable practices to safeguard these species and their habitats.
By appreciating and respecting the largest living birds, we can deepen our understanding of the natural world and the interconnectedness of all living beings. Through responsible stewardship and conservation initiatives, we can contribute to the preservation of these magnificent birds and their habitats for generations to come.