10 birds with the largest wingspan on the planet

Find below this exciting list of birds with the most impressive wings in the world. Spoilers: there is no eagle included in the list!

Wait..what is wingspan anyway?

The wingspan is the distance from a bird’s wings from one primary feather tip to the other. It’s an analogy to the wingspan of an airplane. If we were to compare with humans, it would be the distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms.

10 – Great Bustard 8 ft (2.4 m) wingspan

The Great Bustard or Dabao is a bird native to the Mediterranean area and Central/East Asia. The males have elegant beard-like feathers, similar to a mustache. They’re also 4 times heavier than the females. Talk about exaggerating on pizza!

The females have a beautiful tiger-like feather pattern. Unfortunately, The Great Bustard population is declining. For instance, in England, they were hunted to exhaustion and are extinct.

Great Bustard wingspan
Great Bustard preparing to take off

9 – Griffon Vulture 9 ft (2.8 m) wingspan

This handsome fella is a hybrid in between a vulture and an eagle. He is a native of the Mediterranean area, most common in Spain. He has a fluffy white/cream collar around his neck. They prefer to fly high and roast on high cliff regions and their large wingspan help them soar high.

Griffon Vulture Wingspan
Griffon Vulture – photo by Maurice Koop

8 – Jabiru stork 9.2 ft (2.8 m) wingspan

Native from South America, the Jabiru stork is a tall bird, in fact, it may be even taller than you! Large males may stand as tall as 1.53 m (5.0 ft).

Their nests are a demonstration of pure dedication! They are so dense that are capable of supporting the weight of an adult man.

jabiru bird flying

7 – Whooper Swan 9.2 ft (2.8 m) wingspan

The whooper swan makes their migration of 1,000 km (620 miles) from Iceland to the United Kingdom in 12 hours, flying at an altitude of 8,000m and speeds of 55mph (88km).

And their ‘whooping’ call is one of the loudest of any bird.

Whooper Swan wingspan

6 – Bearded Vulture 9.3 ft (2.83 m) wingspan

The Bearded Vulture, or Homa bird, is native to Iran and northwest Asia. Their wingspan can be 9.3 feet long and their stomachs are so acid that they can digest large bones in about 24 hours!

The bearded vulture is the Alps’ largest bird and is one of the rarest raptors in Europe. It nests on high rock ledges and inhabits exclusively high mountainous areas

bearded vulture wingspan
Bearded vulture soaring

5 – California condor 9.8 ft (3 m) wingspan

The California Condor is the largest land bird in North America and one of the longest living birds, with some individuals living to 60+. When flying, the condor can go as high as 15,000 feet (4572 meters).

California Condors are an endangered species and lead poisoning is the number one cause of death. As people hunt and leave carcasses behind, the California Condors ingest lead fragments from the riffle bullets used by humans to kill the animal.

California Condor opening its wings - Photo by Rennett Stowe
California Condor opening its wings – Photo by Rennett Stowe

4 – Andean Condor – 10.5 feet (3.2 m) wingspan

Found in South America, in the Andean Alpes, the Andean Condor is a vulture-like bird that excels at spotting carcasses from long distances. They locate dead animals by the gas which emits through their dead bodies.

Funny fact: They’re bald with a purpose! Apparently, their bald heads help them to avoid getting all dirty while digging in their favorite meals. Vultures also use their bald heads as a means to thermoregulate in both extreme cold and hot temperatures.

Wondering why do vultures fly in circles? They usually do that because they spotted a prospective soon-to-dead animal. No wonder why there is superstition that is bad luck to have vultures circling above our heads.

The Andean Condor is a hopeless romantic. They mate for life and can live up to 50 years!

Andean Condor flying – By Scott Nelson

3 – Marabou Stork 10.5 ft (3.2 m) wingspan

The Marabou Stork is the land bird with the largest wingspan alongside the Andean Condor. These African birds stand more than 5 feet tall and have a total of 10.5 feet wingspan. Due to their giant size, Marabou storks have hollow toes and leg bones, which balance their body weight and enable them to fly long distances.

Keeping their large wings and beak doesn’t come for free. They prefer to spend most of their time standing around to preserve their energy.

Marabou stork large wingspan

Even though the Marabou is a stork, to whom we usually associate with a chill bird carrying babies, it is a carnivore and enjoys eating scraps of dead animals. Their beaks are not well adapted for cutting meat, so most of the time they literally just “dig in” the meat inside the body. In this process, they are capable of swallowing up to 2.2 lb of food in a single bite!

They also can be opportunist predators. During grass fires, they fly around the flames to swoop down on prey that is fleeing the fire.

Definitely not the cleanest bird, the Marabou stork will often defecate on its own legs and feed to regulate its body temperature. The liquid component of their poop generates a cooling effect, which helps them to not overheat.

2 – Great White Pelican 11 ft (3.6 m) wingspan

The Great White Pelican lives in flocks and is a strong flier, often traveling in beautiful v-formation groups.

They eat almost 3 lb of fish every day, using their large beaks to scoop the fishes while flying. Talk about an easy meal? Or at least, it used to be. Because of overfishing, they are being forced to travel long distances to find fish.

1 – Wandering Albatross 12 ft (3.6 m) wingspan

Believe it or not, albatrosses are capable of crossing 500 miles (800km) a day maintaining the speed of 130km/h without a single flap of their wings. No wonder they are considered the bird with the largest wingspan!

Trickery? Magic? No. Besides having the largest wingspan in the world, Albatrosses are actually pretty good at flying within air currents. They can fly a distance of 22 meters for a single-meter drop, which means they are capable of flying without expending much energy at all.

These birds mastered a technique called dynamic soaring, which involves flying in a curving path so they can save energy. They fly facing the wind and using it to fly upward. After that, they will dip back towards the sea so they can catch another updraft wind.

As soaring birds, they are incapable of sustained flapping flight, which makes sense for a bird that spends most of its life on the wing. 

Another interesting Albatross fact is that apparently they sleep while flying.

File:Wandering Albatross over South Georgia.jpg
Albatross setting flight – By Wikipedia