The quest to identify the biggest bird in the world has fascinated scientists and bird enthusiasts alike. This article aims to provide a detailed exploration of this topic, focusing on both extant (currently living) and extinct species. As we traverse different habitats and eras, we unveil the fascinating characteristics that make these birds stand out in the natural world. Join us in exploring the grandeur of the largest birds, soaring in the skies and roaming the earth.
The Largest Birds by Mass: Ostriches
Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus): Currently, the largest bird in the world by mass is the common ostrich. Males can reach heights of 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) and weigh over 156.8 kg (346 lb). While there are reports of ostriches weighing up to 200 kg (440 lb), these are not verified in wild ostriches.
Largest Birds by Wingspan: Wandering Albatross
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans): When it comes to wingspan, the wandering albatross leads among extant birds. The largest wingspan recorded for this species is approximately 3.65 meters (12.0 feet).
Largest Birds in History: Extinct Giants
Pelagornis sandersi: This extinct species holds the record for the largest wingspan of any flying bird discovered, estimated between 6.06 and 7.38 meters (19.9 and 24.2 feet). This wingspan is about twice that of the wandering albatross, surpassing the previously known record holder, Argentavis magnificent.
Argentavis magnificens: Known as the heaviest flying bird, Argentavis had a wingspan ranging from 5.09 to 6.5 meters (16 ft 8 in to 21 ft 4 in). Its estimated weight was around 70 to 72 kg (154 to 159 lb), significantly heavier than Pelagornis sandersi, which weighed between 22 and 40 kg (48 and 88 lb).
Other Notable Mentions
Elephant Birds (Aepyornithidae) and Thunder Birds (Dromornithidae): For overall mass among extinct birds, the elephant birds and thunder birds are contenders. Aepyornis maximus, an elephant bird, weighed up to 850 kg (1,870 lb), while Dromornis stirtoni, a thunderbird, had an estimated weight of 800 kg (1,800 lb).
What Did We Learn Today?
The “biggest bird” title can be awarded in different categories: by mass, wingspan, or historical significance. The common ostrich is the largest by mass among living birds, while the wandering albatross has the largest wingspan. Historically, Pelagornis sandersi claims the record for wingspan and Argentavis magnificent for weight among flying birds. In the realm of extinct, flightless birds, elephant birds, and thunder birds were the heaviest. This diversity in “biggest birds” showcases avian species’ incredible variety and evolution across different geological eras.