While there are no more massive flying beasts like pterodactyls roaming around the planet, there are still plenty of large birds around. Birds usually aren’t thought of as a large class of animal.
However, some of these are actually taller than humans, making them incredibly intimidating, and making us realize just how small we are.
Read on to learn all about the biggest birds in the world:
- Emperor Penguins
- Great Bustards
- Dalmatian Pelicans
- Andean Condors
- Eurasian Black Vultures
- Secretary Birds
- Steller’s Sea Eagles
- White-tailed Eagles
- European Eagle-owls
- Length: 6 ft 11 inches – 9 ft 2 inches (2.1-2.8 meters)
- Weight: 140-320 pounds (63-145 kg)
Scientific name (genus): Struthio
The common ostrich and the Somali ostrich, respectively, are the first and second biggest bird species in the world. Common ostriches can weigh up to 320 pounds and grow to a height of up to 9 feet.
Somali ostriches are somewhat lighter, weighing up to 230 pounds.
These birds are flightless, so they grow incredibly long, thin legs that allow them to reach incredible running speeds. On top of all that, they have very long necks and incredible eyesight, spotting predators from very far away.
These evolutionary advancements were developed to keep them safe, but they made them the biggest birds in the world at the same time.
- Length: 4.9-5.9 feet (1.5-1.8 meters)
- Weight: 64-130 pounds (29-60 kg)
Scientific name (genus): Casuarius
There are three living species of cassowaries: southern, northern, and dwarf cassowaries. As the name suggests, dwarf cassowaries are much smaller than the first two species (although they’re still among the top 10 biggest birds in the world), not growing past 3.4 feet in height.
The southern cassowary is the largest of the three, standing tall at 5.9 feet, while the northern cassowary is usually slightly shorter on average, but they can also reach 5.9 feet (although those specimens are very rare).
Cassowaries have long legs and massive claws, and they’re actually deemed dangerous species that should be avoided in Australia. Aside from Australia, they can be found in New Guinea and the Maluku Islands.
- Length: up to 75 inches (1.9 meters)
- Weight: 40-132 pounds (18-60 kg)
Scientific name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
Another species of big birds in Australia, emus are relatives of ostriches, capable of growing up to 6.2 feet in height and reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (mph).
They’re not as nearly as heavy as ostriches or cassowaries, though, as they usually don’t weigh more than 130 pounds (and even those examples are extreme).
Just like cassowaries, they have long claws on the end of their toes, which aid them in defense. Their only predators are dingoes, but because of their size, emus are capable of jumping on top of a dingo and reaching the would-be predator’s neck from above.
In most cases, however, they don’t need to fight, as they can simply outrun them.
4. Emperor Penguins
- Length: 43-47 inches (110-120 cm)
- Weight: 50-100 pounds (22-45 kg)
Scientific name: Aptenodytes forsteri
Growing up to 47 inches in height and weighing up to 100 pounds, emperor penguins are the biggest penguins in the world, making them one of the biggest birds in the world.
They’re only found in the Antarctic, where they had to make certain adaptations to survive. They developed thick feathers and below them a thick layer of dermal fat.
Despite living in a terribly cold environment, emperor penguins maintain an average body temperature of 39°C.
These large birds are social animals – they hunt and nest together. During these hunting trips, they can reach incredible depths of up to 870 feet, with one specimen reaching a depth of 1,775 feet.
- Length: up to 67 inches (1.7 meters)
- Weight: up to 88 pounds (40 kg)
Scientific name (genus): Rhea
There are three living species of rheas: greater rheas, lesser rheas, and puna rheas. The former two are very large and deserving of a mention as some of the biggest birds in the world.
Greater rheas can grow up to 4.4 feet in height, with the lesser rhea reaching 3.2 feet. Just like emus, ostriches, and cassowaries, rheas are flightless birds and they essentially look like miniature ostriches.
They’re endemic to South America, where they’re found in open lands.
However, a separate population that’s escaped from an exotic meat farm in Germany has established well in the wild, although Europe isn’t their natural habitat.
These herbivorous birds mostly feed on plants and fruits, often flocking together to eat.
- Length: 39-49 inches (100-125 cm)
- Weight: 11-24 pounds (5-11 kg)
Scientific name: Meleagris gallopavo domesticus and Meleagris gallopavo
Both domestic and wild turkeys are roughly of the same size, weighing up to 86 pounds and growing up to 4.1 feet. Because of their weight, these birds usually can’t fly over long distances, staying confined to their immediate areas.
While domestic turkeys are found on farms all over the world, wild turkeys can only be found in the United States and parts of Central Mexico. There, they live in hardwood forests and open fields.
Turkeys are omnivorous birds, feeding on nuts, berries, grasses, leaves, and insects. If they stumble upon any, they’ll also eat small reptiles and amphibians.
- Length: 55-63 inches (140-160 cm)
- Weight: up to 32 pounds (14 kg)
Scientific name (genus): Cygnus
Mute swans are the largest of all swans, reaching 4.3 feet in height and weighing up to 50 pounds, but all swans are generally large for a bird. Trumpeter swans and whooper swans are capable of reaching similar sizes.
The wingspan of a swan can exceed 10 feet in extreme cases, while they also have very long necks. They’re closely related to geese and ducks, but they’re obviously much larger than their cousins.
You can find swans all over the world, aside from Central America, tropical Asia and Africa. Some of them are migratory, moving down south in the winter.
Despite their beauty, swans are actually aggressive (even towards people), attacking predators with their large, powerful wings, which are capable of bruising and even breaking bones.
- Length: 43-59 inches (110-150 cm)
- Weight: 4.4-8.8 pounds (2-4 kg)
Scientific name (family): Phoenicopteridae
There are six living species of flamingos, with the greater flamingo earning the top spot for the biggest flamingo and one of the biggest birds in the world. They can grow up to 59 inches in height, with the largest ever specimen recording a height of 74 inches.
They’re very light, despite their height, rarely weighing more than 9 pounds.
These birds are characteristically pink, often seen standing on a single leg. The greater and the lesser flamingo can be found in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia, making them the most numerous and the most widespread flamingos.
Chilean, James’s, Andean, and American flamingos can be found in South America and in the Caribbean Islands, as well as southern Florida.
9. Great Bustards
- Length: about 3 feet and 9 inches (115 cm)
- Weight: 13-40 pounds (6-18 kg)
Scientific name: Otis tarda
Great bustards are the only living species of the bustard, a genus of bird found in Eastern and Central Europe, Spain and Portugal, as well as Central and East Asia.
Although they can’t measure up to most other birds on this list regarding height, growing up to 3 feet and 5 inches, they’re some of the heaviest flying birds in the world. Despite weighing up to 40 pounds, these birds can still achieve long-range flight.
One particular specimen weighed in at 46 pounds, making it the heaviest flying bird!
However, their running speed is arguably even more impressive than their flight capabilities. These birds can outrun red foxes, which are capable of running up to 30 mph.
- Length: up to 53 inches (135 cm)
- Weight: more than 25 pounds (11 kg)
Scientific name (family): Diomedeidae
Albatrosses have the longest wingspan of any living bird.
Great albatrosses reach a wingspan of up to 11 feet and a weight of up to 24 pounds. This incredible wingspan allows the albatross to glide in the air for hours without flapping its wings.
Their bodies aren’t short either, reaching 4 feet and 5 inches in length, while they can weigh up to 28 pounds.
Albatrosses are found in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically in the southern part of the three oceans, just north of Antarctica. There, they feed on cephalopods, small fish, and other small animals.
They’re not diving birds, although they’ll sometimes dive just below the surface.
11. Dalmatian Pelicans
- Length: up to 6 feet (183 cm)
- Weight: 16-33 pounds (7-15 kg)
Scientific name: Pelecanus crispus
The largest of the eight living pelican species, the Dalmatian pelican can grow up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 33 pounds. Its wingspan is close to that of the great albatross, sometimes reaching 11 feet, but never exceeding that length.
Despite originating in Southeast Europe, they’re most often found in Turkey and other parts of western Asia. They regularly migrate through Central Asia, often reaching India, all the way through China.
Pelicans feed exclusively on fish, most often on carp, perch, and eels. These highly social animals nest in small groups, sometimes mixing with other pelican species.
12. Andean Condors
- Length: up to 4 feet and 3 inches (130 cm)
- Weight: about 28 pounds (12.5 kg)
Scientific name: Vultur gryphus
A species of New World vulture, the Andean condor is the largest pound-for-pound flying bird in the world. With a wingspan of 10 feet and 10 inches, it can reach weights of up to 33 pounds. The body itself can grow up to 4 feet and 3 inches.
They’re found all alongside the western coast of South America, although they’re not that common in the northern portion of the continent.
Their massive wings allow them to soar without flapping their wings, just like albatrosses.
They’ll often reach a height and circle the area without flapping their wings, looking for a carrion or a wounded animal. They can travel more than 120 miles a day while looking for food.
While they’re mainly scavengers, condors will kill a wounded animal if it doesn’t put them in any danger. As they’re some of the biggest birds in the world, it’s no wonder they eat massive prey like cattle, wild boars, and deer.
13. Eurasian Black Vultures
- Length: 39-47 inches (100-120 cm)
- Weight: 14-31 pounds (6.3-14 kg)
Scientific name: Aegypius monachus
A species very similar to the Andean condor, the Eurasian black vulture can reach a wingspan of 10 feet and weigh up to 31 pounds, making it one of the biggest birds in the world and possibly the biggest birds in Europe.
They’re found in Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, and many countries across Central and East Asia. There, these birds live alone, although groups can be found at feeding sites.
Just like the Andean vulture, they mostly eat dead animals they find, often circling a large area, waiting for something to come up. Sometimes, they’ll pick up a live turtle and drop it from a great height to kill it.
14. Secretary Birds
- Length: up to 4 feet and 11 inches (1.5 meters)
- Weight: 8-9.5 pounds (3.74-4.27 kg)
Scientific name: Sagittarius serpentarius
These large birds of prey are endemic to Africa, usually found in the sub-Saharan region, where they reach a height of up to 4 feet and 3 inches. They have long longs with claws, allowing them to kill prey with a few leg strikes.
These large birds have a wingspan of up to 7 feet, allowing them to soar as they’re looking for food.
They’re solitary birds, aside from breeding and taking care of the young. When hunting, these birds will spot the prey from up above, land, and chase the prey on food before killing it.
15. Steller’s Sea Eagles
- Length: up to 3 feet and 5 inches (105 cm)
- Weight: 10.8-20.9 pounds (4.9-9.5 kg)
Scientific name: Haliaeetus pelagicus
Also known as the white-shouldered eagle are the heaviest eagles in the world, weighing up to 22 pounds. It’s the largest sea eagle in existence with a wingspan of up to 8 feet and 2 inches.
This is also one of the largest wingspans of any eagle in general, making them some of the biggest birds in the world.
They’re found in the very Northeast corner of Asia, surrounding the coasts of Japan, Russia, China, and both Koreas. There, they mainly feed on fish, particularly salmon, diving into the water to catch it.
They also hunt other birds, such as the slaty-backed gull, and in extreme cases, they’ve been recorded hunting young seals.
16. White-tailed Eagles
- Length: 26-37 inches (66-94 cm)
- Weight: 9-13 pounds (4-6 kg)
Scientific name: Haliaeetus albicilla
Found in the same range as our previous entry, but also in Russia, Southwest Asia, and large portions of Europe, white-tailed eagles are massive birds.
They’re some of the biggest birds of prey in existence, growing up 37 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet!
They feed on fish, other birds, and mammals as well. They’ve been documented capturing rabbits, weasels, and even moose and bison (although it’s presumed they either captured the young or ate carrion).
Their nests are also very large, up to 3.3 feet across and 6.6 feet deep, making them some of the largest bird nests in the world.
17. Eurasian Eagle-owl
- Length: 22-30 inches (56-75 cm)
- Weight: 2.5-10 pounds (1.3-4.6 kg)
Scientific name: Bubo bubo
This bird, capable of growing up to 30 inches with a wingspan of more than 6 feet, is the last of the biggest birds in the world we’ll mention today. They’re found, quite literally, all over Asia and across great parts of Europe (barring the UK and Ireland).
These owls are the world’s largest owls, although they’re not the heaviest, as they weigh up to 10 pounds.
In the wild, they’re found on the edge of forests where they observe the open fields for prey. Once prey is spotted, the eagle-owl will quickly drop from its branch and kill the prey with its powerful claws.
To Wrap Up
There you have it, folks! Ostriches are, without a doubt, the biggest birds in the world, but they’re not the biggest flying birds in the world, that title belongs to albatrosses (by wingspan) and turkeys (by weight), respectively.
In the case of flightless birds, they developed long legs and necks to run quickly and spot predators early, while flying birds developed incredible wingspans that allow them to soar for a long time without flapping their wings.