Hitchcock’s The Birds is one of the most iconic thrillers of classic cinema. What few people know is that the movie was inspired by a real-life event.
Whether you’re pondering the possibility of nature becoming vindictive or want to know which birds can cause injuries or death – to other animals or people – these are the 12 strongest birds in the world:
- Harpy eagle
- Bearded vulture
- Barn owl
- Golden eagle
- Australian magpie
- Great horned owl
- Galapagos large ground finch
- Secretary bird
*Note: Because strength and size factors vary from species to species (i.e., some birds have strong kicks, others strong bites or they can lift more than their body weight), the birds above are not compared to one another and are listed in no particular order.
Scientific name (genus): Casuarius
Generally considered the world’s most dangerous bird, the cassowary is a large terrestrial bird native to Australia and Oceania.
It can measure up to 5.8 feet in length and weigh up to 130 pounds. The strength, which is mostly concentrated in its legs, doesn’t come as a surprise considering the bird’s size.
While there are no official studies on how hard a cassowary can kick, cassowaries and ostriches are the only birds in the world known to have killed humans.
The most recent recorded fatality was a 75-year-old man from Florida who was attacked and killed by his pet cassowary.
These birds are rather shy and docile in the wild, but they are still known for attacking pets and livestock – even though they are primarily herbivores. Despite their diet, they are the strongest Australian birds.
Scientific name: Struthio camelus
About two times bigger than cassowaries, ostriches are the second terrestrial bird on this list and one of the top 10 most powerful birds in the world.
Like cassowaries, ostriches have a very strong kick; so strong that it can inflict internal organ injury and even death – in humans and other large mammals, including lions.
Not only are ostriches powerful; they are also fast. An ostrich can run at speeds up to 43 miles per hour – a performance that isn’t matched by any other bird.
It goes without saying that they are also faster than humans, so escaping their wrath by running is just not an option.
Scientific name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
Australia is known as the land of the deadliest animals, and it didn’t earn its name for nothing. Among all dangerous creatures on the continent, the emu makes its place on the list of most dangerous and strongest flightless birds.
Adept at running at high speeds, emus are the only birds in the world with calf muscles. This trait gives them extra strength, and they can allegedly be strong enough to kill people.
Attacks on people are very rare, though, and fatalities haven’t yet been registered. Emus are less aggressive than ostriches and cassowaries, and they typically eat grass, insects, and small vertebrates.
Nevertheless, back in 1932, a large group of emus managed to outmaneuver the Australian troops called to deal with them by farmers complaining about emus devastating their farms and crops.
4. Harpy Eagle
Scientific name: Harpia harpyja
Named by the Guinness World Records as the strongest bird of prey, the harpy eagle is smaller but a lot fiercer than emu birds.
A peculiarity for the kingdom world is that female harpy eagles are actually stronger than males.
They only weigh around 20 pounds, yet they manage to hunt and carry in-flight animals equal or superior to their size.
To do this, harpy eagles are equipped with long toes that span up to nine inches long and talons that are about five inches in length.
Among the eagle’s preferred prey we can mention monkeys, opossums, and sloths.
Scientific name: Vultur gryphus
Some of the strongest birds in South America, condors are raptors and primarily carnivores. They are mostly scavengers, even if hunting behavior has also been observed.
These vultures hunt marmots, birds, rabbits, and other small to mid-sized animals that they grab with their strong feet and lift while they are still alive. In most cases, these birds even start feeding before the prey is dead.
But condors don’t only have strong legs and feet. They also have strong beaks that can tear open entire carcasses.
6. Bearded Vulture
Scientific name: Gypaetus barbatus
Also known as lammergeyer, the bearded vulture is a very large bird of prey and one of the strongest European birds.
The interesting fact about these animals is that they have a diet consisting mainly of bones. And not just any bones. According to research, they prefer fatty ones.
Unlike other scavengers, these birds don’t crush the bones with their beaks. Instead, they lift them high in the air and drop them onto the rocky scree near cliffs to crack them open.
Their strong-enough stomachs can then manage to digest bones the size of a bullock’s backbone.
7. Barn Owl
Scientific name: Tyto alba
One of the strongest flying birds – even though one wouldn’t say that, considering its favorite prey – is the barn owl.
This nocturnal creature occurs in numerous geographic ranges and habitats across the world.
It mostly feeds on small rodents, although it sometimes takes voles, shrews, and young rabbits. Small birds and reptiles are also on the menu.
What comes as a surprise, though, is the force that goes into each attack. Barn owls are likely to prefer small prey because they are more readily available and easier to catch, not because they can’t take larger mammals.
In fact, they can land on the prey with a plummeting strike equal to 14 times their own weight. That’s a force around 150 times that of a mouse’s body mass.
8. Golden Eagle
Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos
Are eagles the strongest birds? Of course, they are!
The strongest bird of prey title may belong to harpy eagles, but golden eagles are also some of the strongest birds in America.
Not only do golden eagles have a very strong grip, but they are also very fast when hunting. Scientists discovered that these eagles could close their talons at the hyper-impressive speed of 25 milliseconds after impact.
9. Australian Magpie
Scientific name: Gymnorhina tibicen
As its name suggests, this mid-sized bird is native to Australia. It isn’t as large as eagles or owls, and it is definitely smaller than emus and ostriches. Yet, it is one of the birds with the strongest beaks.
Their beak force is not scientifically measured yet, but the species is aggressive when it feels threatened.
Attacks on humans are frequently reported, and the birds can allegedly draw blood with a single strike.
Not only do these birds have strong beaks, but they live, travel, and often attack in groups. Flock sizes can go up to 25 birds, and having them all swoop on you could make one feel like a character in Hitchcock’s movie.
10. Great Horned Owl
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Like all other owls, great horned owls are primarily nocturnal and go after small to mid-sized prey. Nevertheless, several attacks on people were reported in a Seattle-area park.
Similar to the Australian magpies, these birds displayed swooping behavior.
Their strongest assets are the talons that can catch the prey with the same gripping force as a guard dog’s bite. Strong enough to provoke severe injuries, permanently disfigure, or even kill.
11. Galapagos Large Ground Finch
Scientific name: Geospiza magnirostris
A finch, even a large ground one, isn’t the first bird that comes to mind when thinking about the strongest birds. Yet, it comes as a surprise that this is the bird with the strongest bite in the world – related to body size, but still the strongest.
According to research, this tiny bird that weighs just over an ounce has a bite 320 times more powerful than a T-rex when calculated pound-per-pound.
To be more specific, its beak packs 70 Newton of force. To put things into perspective, some dogs have a weaker bite than the finch, and most domestic dogs typically apply the same force when chewing their dry food.
12. Secretary Bird
Scientific name: Sagittarius serpentarius
Birds with the strongest kicks typically include large, terrestrial birds that are primarily herbivores. Yet, exceptions can always occur, and that’s the case with the secretary bird.
This bird of prey is mostly terrestrial, but its diet is primarily carnivorous.
Despite this, the bird has ridiculously powerful kicks, the force being equal to five times their own weight.
It goes without saying that these kicks are also very fast, happening at the jaw-dropping speed of 15 milliseconds. And the impressive thing is that they do this with just one leg and from a standstill.