Jenna is a biology grad student currently working on completing her Master's degree. Her thesis focuses on songbird migration dynamics.
Which Birds Have the Longest Wingspans?
Birds are some of the most well-known animals on earth—mainly because they are everywhere! They often fill up otherwise empty places with life, color, and song. Have you ever wondered what the largest birds on earth are? Well, this page seeks to answer that question!
Have you ever wondered what the largest birds on earth are? Well, this page seeks to answer that question! The following is a list of the top 10 longest wingspans of living species. Please note that this is not a list by mass or body size. Some of these wingspans will truly amaze you! I have also included some interesting bird facts and information as well --- and please don't forget to sign the guestbook before you leave.
Some of these wingspans will truly amaze you! I have also included some interesting bird facts and information.
Please note: This top 10 list has slight ambiguity due to natural variation among bird sizes in the wild. The measurements may or may not be mean wingspan lengths for any given species. There may be other bird species with similar wingspans; these are simply the species chosen for my list.
There are about 10,000 different bird species on earth. New bird species are still being discovered today in remote places around the world. Sadly, since the year 1500, over 190 bird species have become extinct—and extinction is on the rise.
I've been fascinated by birds since I was a little girl—the diversity in size and shape is amazing! I am so interested in birds that I am currently in grad school studying avian migration biology. Now, time to learn about which bird species have the longest wingspans in the world!
What Do You Mean by Wingspan?
A wingspan is simply the measurement of a bird's wings from one primary feather tip to the other. It's analogous to the wingspan of an airplane, shown in this photo from Wiki Commons:
10. Golden Eagle—Aquila Chrysaetos
Wingspan: 8.2 feet
Golden eagles are majestic hunters of the Northern Hemisphere and one of the largest eagles in the world. Although they are powerful enough to kill large deer, they most often hunt small mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs. Golden eagles are the national emblem of Mexico. Have you ever seen one? I was thrilled to recently see a golden eagle for the first time!
9. Grey Crowned Crane—Balearica regulorum
Wingspan: 8.2 feet (2.5 meters)
The grey crane is an inhabitant of the dry savannas in Africa. They have an elaborate courtship display, which involves dancing, bowing, and jumping. They are elegant birds only found south of the Sahara desert. I'd love to take a trip to Africa someday and hope to see these elegant cranes!
8. California Condor—Gymnogyps californianus—The Largest Flying Bird in North America
Wingspan: 9.1 feet (2.8 meters)
The California condor is one of the rarest birds in the world. They are the largest flying bird in North America and feed on carrion. The number of California condors was reduced dramatically by poisoning, both intentionally by farmers and unintentionally by the use of lead shot to hunt animals. Lead poisoning as a result of scavenging rendered many of these birds infertile. This is a story with a happy ending, though! Once pushed to the brink of extinction, they are now slowly and steadily increasing in numbers with the aid of some excellent captive breeding programs.
Have you ever seen one of these magnificent birds?
I've never seen one—maybe someday soon!
7. Griffon Vulture—Gyps fulvus
Wingspan: 9.2 feet (2.8 meters)
This is a massive vulture, measuring over three feet from beak to tail. These birds inhabit the mountainous parts of Southern Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It breeds on high cliff edges—this is not a bird that's scared of heights!
It hunts for carrion by soaring high in the sky, either singly or in large groups. Noted as being a highly social species, these birds often nest in colonies of more than 100 pairs, with some colonies estimated to contain up to 1,000 birds.
Some people think that vultures are creepy, but I think they're a cool group of birds.
6. Bearded Vulture—Gypaetus barbatus
Wingspan: 9.8 feet (2.99 meters)
The Latin binomial for this species literally means "bearded vulture-eagle," and it is aptly named. This is a massive and majestic species! Bearded vultures are sometimes known as Lammergeier vultures. Unlike most vultures, this species does not have the characteristic bald head. It inhabits the crags in the high mountains of Europe, India, Pakistan, Africa, and Tibet. Like most vultures, they eat mostly carrion which they locate by sight while soaring high in the air. Amazingly, a bearded vulture has been reported at an elevation of 24,000 feet!
5. Whooper Swan—Cygnus cygnus
Wingspan: 9.8 feet (3 meters)
Some of the heaviest flying birds are our swans. In the US, the heaviest flying bird is the Trumpeter Swan, but the larger whooper swan is an elegant bird that winters in northern Europe and eastern Asia. They may fly hundreds of miles to reach breeding grounds in subarctic Eurasia. These birds are powerful flyers, despite weighing 18-44 pounds (8-20 kilograms)! They have a very deep call and are truly a remarkable bird to witness in flight.
4. Andean Condor—Vultur gryphus
Wingspan: 11 feet (3.4 meters)
This is a magnificent and humongous bird! These massive vultures spend their days soaring on updrafts in the Andean mountains of South America. Its diet consists mainly of carrion, but unlike most vultures, these birds will kill small- to medium-sized mammals as well. They do not reach maturity until they are around eight years old and can live 50 to 60 years in the wild. Males are larger than females and can weigh over 30 pounds. A remarkable sight when soaring!
3. Marabou Stork—Leptoptilos crumeniferus
Wingspan: at least 11 feet (3.4 meters)
These unusual scavengers are a frequent sight on the African plains. They can often be found feeding on carrion alongside vultures. These impressive birds inhabit both wet and arid habitats south of the Sahara. They are often called "undertaker birds" because of their habits. They are gregarious and colonial breeders. They can weigh up to 20 pounds and can reach a height of five feet. Although they usually eat carrion, they will also eat small mammals, birds, and nestlings.
2. Great White Pelican—Pelecanus onocrotalus
Wingspan: 11.8 feet (3.6 meters)
These large and distinctive birds inhabit the eastern Mediterranean to Vietnam and South Africa. Like all pelicans, these birds are adapted to aquatic life. They have webbed feet and feed on many fish per day, but like most birds, they are opportunistic feeders. They are known for forming huge aggregations, including a colony of around 75,000 in Tanzania. Please note that this bird is not the American white pelican, which inhabits the States.
And the largest wingspan of any living bird belongs to . . .
1. Wandering Albatross—Diomedea exulans
Wingspan: 11.8 feet (3.6 meters)
These are amazing and majestic birds. They spend their entire lives at sea and only come ashore to reproduce every other year. The wandering albatross breeds on South Georgia Island, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Prince Edward Islands, and Macquarie Island. Although the largest confirmed report was around 12 feet, there have been accounts of Wandering Albatross wingspans as large as 17 feet across. Such long wings enable these birds to glide effortlessly over the ocean for hours at a time without flapping its wings. Its body length can reach close to five feet. Unfortunately, these majestic birds have declined by more than 30% over the past 70 years with their biggest threat being long line fishing practices. Pollution, especially from plastic, is also taking its toll. Adults unknowingly feed their chicks bits of plastic they find floating in the ocean, causing a slow death for the unfortunate chick.
You have probably noticed that most of these bird species use their long wings for soaring while looking for prey and carrion or during long-distance migrations. Hawks, eagles, and vultures soar on thermals (rising columns of warm air) and thus do not fly at night. On the other hand, the albatross glides over open water using a different technique. You might have noticed that the albatrosses wings are narrow, a shape that facilitates gliding.
For all of these species, long wings are a beneficial adaptation to a species' particular environment and behavior.
Plastic's Impact on Seabirds
Many seabirds, including albatrosses, are in trouble due to the volume of trash that pollutes our oceans. This trash includes plastic and other small colorful items that seabirds mistake for food. The birds feed the plastic to their young, many of whom die because they cannot digest it. Learn more about the birds of Midway Atoll, where the impact of plastic on seabirds has been particularly devastating.
BBC Video of the Plastics Consumed by Albatrosses
Time to vote!
Were you surprised by this list? Please share your reactions! :)
Please sign the guestbook!
patyon on January 07, 2019:
im 5 years old
William Gerald Ingram on December 09, 2018:
Please explain the 19 foot wingspan I saw on a Bustard (?) like bird while I was Desert Cruising in Saudi Arabia (south of Jeddah).
Noah on January 26, 2018:
I've heard of birds really big they're buller's albatross,harpy eagle,trumpeter swan,white American pelican,brown pelican,cattle egret,sanddlebill stork,blue heron,wild turkey,hoatzin,and African fish eagle.
Kenneth J Kucinsky on April 27, 2017:
I was curious about a mythological bird called a Thunder bird, also, Marco Polo's journey spoke of an enormous bird in Africa.
Philip on February 17, 2017:
Really appreciate your putting this information online.
H on January 25, 2017:
Several people have commented on Wedge-tailed eagles. I believe they should be on your list. My understanding is that the largest verified wing span of an eagle is from a Female Wedge-tailed eagle.
Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on January 21, 2017:
Thanks for a super and informative hub. I love the eagles. So beautiful watching them in the sky. The great white pelican certainly looks different from other birds. Enormous beak. Birds are so fascinating.
Jade on November 01, 2016:
Wedge-tailed eagles wingspan can get up to 3meters plus this is verified, beacause the government use to have a bounty on there head and plenty have been mesured. They dont weigh as much as other eagles not are there talons the biggest but in terms of wingspan they are probably the the biggest....
bob on October 03, 2016:
B Altenberndt on August 08, 2016:
Thank you for this wonderful and informative page! I learned so much reading it and am proud of you for doing your graduate work on these magnificent creatures. Please continue to inform people of the devastation caused by our ocean trash, especially plastics.
Prickle Farmer on April 13, 2016:
Where is the wedge tailed eagle???
brownie on October 09, 2015:
the golden eagle isn't the largest bird
Chloe pang on July 28, 2015:
You rather say how long can the longest wing spanded bird fly!
Ana on June 21, 2015:
What is a lens?
Lee on June 15, 2015:
Wikipedia: "The longest-winged eagle ever was an Australian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) at 2.83 m (9.3 ft)"
godzilla on March 14, 2015:
The wingspan of White-tailed Eagle, a haliaeetus species of accipitiridae family is only on average is easily 2.18 metres and is almost 1.2 times larger than than that of the golden eagle's wingspan. For a kind information- on average the wingspans of all the eagles is less than that of the white-tailed eagle and if this list is made then the golden will be only at fifth position in only eagles' even.
ferrug on November 30, 2014:
Thanks for pointing attention to all these beautiful creatures. I hope that some of the folks who see this will become more curious and dig deeper. However, in the interest of informing your readers, I am compelled to point out that at least some of your information is incorrect and cannot be verified by any of the sources I can find. It would be a good idea for you to cite your sources.
Samantha Druhan on November 30, 2014:
I stumbled across this while making a lesson plan about lift in a science flight unit for grade 6's. Will be using this information for them. Thank you!
josietook on August 23, 2013:
Ben Reed from Redcar on August 22, 2013:
I enjoyed my visit - thank you.
forkliftsafety on August 05, 2013:
Nice lens! Wondering if you know how wingspan is recorded? Are the numbers the "largest" or a statistical average of some sort?
RinchenChodron on August 04, 2013:
Congrats on your Purple Star. Nice lens. I love vultures myself.
laurenrich on July 31, 2013:
This is an awesome lens. I love your pictures and the lens is very informative. Thanks for sharing.
mel-kav on July 27, 2013:
Wow! I never realized these birds have such long wingspans. Interesting lens.
SBPI Inc on July 13, 2013:
Tremendous lens. Thank you.
fcinternetmarketing on July 08, 2013:
anonymous on June 27, 2013:
I really enjoyed this site.
GameHelp on June 16, 2013:
11.8 feet! That's amazing.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 12, 2013:
I would love to see an Eagle or Condor in flight. We have a lot of red tailed Hawks and they just take my breath away when they swoop through the yard. We love to watch them. My husband used to throw chicken gizzards up in the air and they would swoop down out of nowhere to grab them. It was a site to see, for sure. I enjoyed visiting this page today. Thanks.
JoleneBelmain on May 23, 2013:
It's amazing how large of a wing span some birds can have, and it would be such a wonderous thing to see. Great lens :)
Will Marcus on May 23, 2013:
What a beautiful masterfully built Lens! The photos are stunning. Blessings, Will
MythYes on May 02, 2013:
I didn't know that pelican is so huge. :) Nice lens by the way.
anonymous on April 30, 2013:
Unreal, I have Chinese students in my house this year and they just love this page on your birds. Every night they read about them and give a report in. School.
OMENA777 on April 29, 2013:
I loved you lens on birds. Well done.
BarbsSpot on April 24, 2013:
@Lensmaster...Congratulations on your Purple Star for this work of beauty on our wonderful birds!
mistaben on April 23, 2013:
Really enjoyed your lens. I love whooper swan photo.
anonymous on April 22, 2013:
I really enjoyed the birds. Thank you.
RaksTheBlogger on April 21, 2013:
Beautiful birds with massive wings!what's more?!Great lens!
ConsumerProductAlly on April 20, 2013:
Love watching the birds with my children...Nice Lens!
Vikk Simmons from Houston on April 14, 2013:
I've always loved birds. I used to see a Blue Heron early every morning when I opened my door because he was visiting the pond next door. There was nothing like watching him take off for the sky and spread those wings. Really set the mornings off right.
TanoCalvenoa on April 10, 2013:
I occasionally see golden eagles near my house in Southern California.
JohnSkimerhorn on April 10, 2013:
I didn't realize there is a species of swan that large. 9.8ft wow! It kind of makes me feel short. Nice informative page.
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on April 09, 2013:
I did not know there was such a thing as a bee hummingbird. I must look that one up! Thanks for a lovely and informative page.
whitebob_king on April 09, 2013:
huge wings.amazing birds.fantastic picture.
anonymous on April 04, 2013:
it is great ...... it was very informative ,,,,,,,
Aunt-Mollie on March 30, 2013:
Amazing statistics and photos on these species.
Makster01 on March 26, 2013:
Wow, I never knew that these birds were so huge!
anonymous on March 04, 2013:
wow! i had never been see these long birds .. great video.. thanks a lot for sharing..
ROCNatureGuy on February 26, 2013:
This was a cool page! The photos were great!
anonymous on February 22, 2013:
the Grey Crowned Crane are looking wonderful beautiful.. amazing eye's of brown eagle:-) thanks for sharing
GeekGirl1 on February 16, 2013:
The pictures are amazing, i liked the Bearded Vulture photo. spectacular!!
JeffGilbert on January 29, 2013:
Great page on these birds. I kept waiting for the albatross, but I see, it's still the biggest wingspan.. :)
lionmom100 on January 24, 2013:
Wonderful lens. Such wonderful majestic birds.
Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on January 23, 2013:
A lovely lens
anonymous on January 13, 2013:
I didn't know the Great White Pelican was so huge!
Lee from Derbyshire, UK on January 09, 2013:
Great lens - very interesting! Loving the photo of the Great White Pelican as well, incredible image
anonymous on January 07, 2013:
As per "Scholastic book of world records, 2011", the order is as below:
1. Marabou Stork - 13 ft
2. Albatross - 12 ft
3. Trumpeter Swan - 11 ft
4. Mute Swan - 10 ft
5. Whooper Swan - 10 ft
Can you validate this and respond? My son is looking for some confirmation.
Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on December 28, 2012:
darciefrench lm on December 27, 2012:
Really enjoyed this page. We are blessed with eagles in the area - I love to watch them soar
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on December 27, 2012:
Hi I enjoyed reading this lens and learning about these great birds. Yes I was surprised, Thanks for sharing. .Blessed and added to my lens Squid Angel flinnie.
Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on December 26, 2012:
What a terrific lens! Thanks for all the great info and pictures ~ SquidAngel blessed!
WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on December 26, 2012:
Very interesting collection of birds. It's hard to believe the wingspans of these birds are more than the height of a human. Blessed!
giovi64 lm on December 23, 2012:
I love animals.
Ahdilarum on December 22, 2012:
great info and some birds were ever never heard so far. good collection
anonymous on December 22, 2012:
Hi, Jenna. I was indeed surprised at the wingspans of these birds. As I went through the list, I was comparing the wingspans with the distance between a basketball goal and the court, which is ten feet. It amazes me that a bird could have a wingspan of more than ten feet. Great lens!
WriterJanis2 on December 21, 2012:
Love the photos.
WriterJanis2 on December 21, 2012:
Love the photos.
Shorebirdie from San Diego, CA on December 11, 2012:
Great lens! I've seen golden eagles near my home and they are huge!
xtianfriborg13 on December 04, 2012:
Beautiful birds!!!!!!!!!! :)
Rodaussie on December 02, 2012:
Beverly Rodriguez from Albany New York on November 07, 2012:
These birds are really impressive.
nettlemere lm on November 06, 2012:
I was pleasantly surprised to see the whooper swans on the list which means that two of the species are found in the UK. So I don't have to go anywhere exotic to seee them.
katiecolette on November 06, 2012:
Wow! The scale surely helps put things into perspective... Great job on this lens!
ratetea on October 30, 2012:
I was surprised that Brown Pelicans aren't on this list. I've seen both brown and white pelicans (I've only seen American White Pelicans, which are almost as big as the Great White Pelican), but I've never seen them side-by-side. I just thought of them as both very big birds. But apparently, the white pelicans have a much larger wingspan. I guess this makes sense because the brown pelican dives, and the white one does not, and I think it would be clumsy for such a massive bird to dive into the water, so the brown ones are more streamlined!
anonymous on October 20, 2012:
Thank you very much keep up the amazing work.
RetroMom on October 05, 2012:
I learned a lot from your lens. Very interesting and educational. Thanks !
pinkgrey on October 01, 2012:
It's hard to even imagine a 3.6m wingspan of an albatross. So very sad these birds suffer so much due to the thoughtless littering actions of humans. Great idea for a lens, thoroughly enjoyed exploring it.
anonymous on September 23, 2012:
That is crazy, I knew eagles had a huge wingspan but i never would have guessed it was that large.
LynetteBell from Christchurch, New Zealand on September 20, 2012:
I never realised their wings span was soooo long!
anonymous on September 20, 2012:
amazing!!! Is there any list for largest birds ever which are extinct now. Believe most large birds are extinct as they have fallen prey to human predators.
RestlessKnights on September 17, 2012:
I was surprised. I didn't know that all these different types of birds had such enormous wingspans. Very enlightening lens.
anonymous on September 17, 2012:
Thanks for your visit and comment to my lens.
Little Linda Pinda from Florida on September 03, 2012:
Yes. Very interesting. Just 2 days ago I heard we have huge white pelicans at a preserve not far from where I live. I wonder if they are the same as the Great White Pelicans you talked about. I live in Florida.
TTMall on September 02, 2012:
Great lens with excellent pictures. Thanks for sharing!
dogface lm on August 28, 2012:
3.6 meters?? That's...that's...too much. :D
anonymous on August 24, 2012:
Stopped by to do some more bird watching on Squidoo...lol. :)
anonymous on August 22, 2012:
Just got back from an expedition to Bolivia where we saw an andean condor so it gets my vote! It was huge
goo2eyes lm on August 20, 2012:
i was not surprised. albatross is my favorite. would you mind including the extinct bird, pterodactyl? congratulations for winning the purple star award.
anonymous on August 17, 2012:
Yes I did not realize just how big they were although we picked up a dead Wedge tailed eagle (in Australia) and my husband is 6ft.4in tall and its wing span was bigger than him.
CristianStan on August 16, 2012:
Awesome pictures and birds. It must be great to be able to fly like a bird!
elyria on August 15, 2012:
Wow, amazing lens and beautiful birds!
msseiboi on August 15, 2012:
Monica Ranstrom on August 15, 2012:
Beautiful lens! Really enjoyed it.
sagebrushmama on August 11, 2012:
Amazing! Wonderful lens!
vinodkpillai lm on August 10, 2012:
I knew one or two - the rest of the list was a revelation - and fun to discover too! Thanks for sharing.
sunny saib on August 06, 2012:
Eye-widening figures. I didn't know these guys are THIS big! Nice :)
John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 29, 2012:
I was surprised that I've seen three of them - and two species near where I live - the Whooper Swan and the Crane (if you count the Common or Eurasian Crane.)
MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on July 27, 2012:
Wonderful choices of some amazing birds! ~~Blessed by another bird lover~~
JoshK47 on July 25, 2012:
Some very remarkable creatures here - thanks so much for sharing. Blessed by a SquidAngel!
Ben Z98 on July 24, 2012:
I wonder if any of the birds can carry me around...