Bird Extremes

23rd June 2010

The largest extinct bird: The Dromornis stirtoni which was about 10 feet (3 m) tall and weighed up to 1,000 pounds (454 kg).


Smallest bird: The smallest bird is the bee hummingbird which is 2.5 inches long ( 6.2 cm) weighing only 0.06 oz (1.6 g). Hummingbirds lay the smallest birds' eggs. They always lay 2 at a time, each the size of a person's small fingernail.

Oddest flyers: The only backwards and sideways flyer is the hummingbird


Bird with claws: The Hoatzin has small claws on the first and second wing digits when it is young (it uses the claws to climb trees). The African touraco also has wing claws when it is young. The ostrich has three claws on each wing.


Fastest in the sky: The fastest flying birds include: The peregrine falcon, clocked at 90 mph (145 kph). There are even accounts of these raptors diving at speeds up to 200 mph (320 kph). The spine-tailed swift, about 90-100 mph (145-160 kph) the harpy eagle - 37-50 mph (60-80 kph). Champion racing pigeons fly up to 53 mph (85 kph)  The Mallard duck reaches speed of up to 65 mph (105 kph)

Fastest on land: The fastest-running bird is the ostrich which can run up to 43 mph (70 kph). In contrast, the road runner (a type of cuckoo) runs about 12 mph (19 kph)

Fastest Swimmers: Gentoo Penguins are the fastest swimming birds.

Higest flyer: The highest flyer is Ruppell's griffon vulture. One collided with an airplane off the Ivory Coast in 1973 at 37,000 feet (11,278 m). A migrating Bar-headed Goose was once seen over the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal at roughly 28,000 feet.

Longest migration: The arctic tern makes the longest migration each year, flying 20,000 to 25,000 miles (3200-4000 km) each year from the Arctic to the antarctic.


Heaviest Flyer: The heaviest flying bird is the great bustard which weighs up to 46 pounds (20.9 kg).

Shortest legs: Swifts (Apodidae) and hummingbirds.

Poisonous birds: The only two known poisonous birds are the Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous, also called the "garbage bird") and the Ifrita (Ifrita kowaldi) from Papua, New Guinea. The toxin (homobatrachotoxin, a steroidal alkaloid) is concentrated in these bird's feathers and skin, and is probably obtained from some plant that they eat.

Longest beak: The Australian pelican's beak is up to 18.5 inches (47 cm) long.

A beak longer than the body: The sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera), which lives in the Andes mountains of South America, has a beak that is longer than its body. It uses this incredible beak to sip nectar from the long, tube-like datura flower.


Largest tongue: The flamingo.

Biggest eyes: The ostrich has the biggest eyeballs, which are 2 inches (5 cm) across.


Best night vision: Owls have the best night vision; these birds hunt at night.


Best hearing: Owls (especially Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls) have the best hearing; these birds hunt at night.


Smallest owl: The Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) which is about 6.1 inches (16 cm) long, has a wingspan of 15 inches (38 cm), and weighs about 1.5 ounces (4g).


Largest owl: The biggest Owls are the: Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa) [which are about 33 inches (84 cm) long, have a wingspan of about 5 feet (152 cm), and weigh about 3 pounds (1450 g).  The Eurasian Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo) are also very large.  They are about 28 inches (71 cm) long, have a wingspan of about 5.2 feet (160 cm), and weigh up to 9.8 pounds (4200 g) The Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) is about 25 inches (63 cm) long, and has a wingspan of about 5 feet (152 cm), they weigh about 4 pounds (1800 g).

Heaviest bird of prey: Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) - which weigh about 20-27 pounds (9-12 kg) and have a wingspan of over 10 feet (3 m).


Biggest bird of prey: The largest birds of prey are eagles (the Harpy Eagle) and vultures (the California Condor, the Andean condor, and the Cinereous or Black Vulture) that have a wingspan of up to about 10 feet (3 m).


Most powerful bird of prey: Harpy Eagles (Harpia harpyja) are the most powerful bird of prey. They are about 2.8 ft (86 cm) long and have a wingspan of about 6.5 ft (2 m). Their curved talons are up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) long, as long as the claws of a grizzly bear.

Longest wing span: The birds with the longest wing spans are the marabou stork, a scavenger with a wing span of 8 -13 feet (2.4-4 m), the wandering albatross, whose wingspan is up to about 12.5-13 feet (3.8-4 m).

Best hoverer: The best hoverers are hummingbirds, terns, gulls, and kestrels (sparrow hawks).

Most thieving: The most thieving bird is the magpie, which collects shiny objects for its nests.

Longest lifespan: Among the longest-lived birds are: Parrots - various species of parrots live from 40 to over 100 years. Cockatoos can live for about 75 years Macaws live for over 60-70 years in captivity Some other bird life spans which are noteworthy are the rhinoceros hornbill, which lives up to 33 years in captivity. The rhea, a large, flightless bird can live up to 40 years in captivity, and 20 year in the wild. The vulture, is a scavenger bird and can live up to 30 years in captivity. The ostrich has a life span of up to 40 years, and swans can live up to 50 years in captivity, and up to 19 years in the wild 


The oldest known bird: The oldest known bird is the long-extinct Archaeopteryx, which lived 135-180 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period. It had teeth but is considered to be a bird. Beautiful Archaeopteryx fossils have been found in Germany.