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Top 10 Largest Birds on Earth | Wingspans

Updated on July 23, 2015
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Jenna is a biology grad student currently working on completing her Master's degree. Her thesis focuses on songbird migration dynamics.

The top 10 largest birds on Earth, measured by wingspan.
The top 10 largest birds on Earth, measured by wingspan. | Source

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.

The 10 birds with the largest wingspans in the world.
The 10 birds with the largest wingspans in the world.

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!

Do you enjoy watching and learning about birds?

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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:

Diagram illustrating wingspan.
Diagram illustrating wingspan. | Source

10 Bird Species with the Longest Wingspans

10. Golden Eagle—Aquila Chrysaetos

Golden eagle
Golden eagle | Source

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!

Learn more about the golden eagle.

9. Grey Crowned Crane—Balearica regulorum

Grey crowned crane
Grey crowned crane | Source

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!

Learn more about the grey crowned crane.

8. California Condor—Gymnogyps californianus—The Largest Flying Bird in North America

California condor
California condor | Source

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?

Learn more about the California condor.

I've never seen one—maybe someday soon!

Have you ever seen a California Condor?

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7. Griffon Vulture—Gyps fulvus

Griffon vulture
Griffon vulture | Source

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.

Learn more about the Griffon vulture.

6. Bearded Vulture—Gypaetus barbatus

Bearded vulture
Bearded vulture | Source

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!

Learn more about the bearded vulture.

5. Whooper Swan—Cygnus cygnus

Whooper swan
Whooper swan | Source

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.

Learn more about the whooper swan.

4. Andean Condor—Vultur gryphus

Andean condor
Andean condor | Source

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!

Learn more about the Andean condor.

3. Marabou Stork—Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Marabou stork
Marabou stork | Source

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.

Learn more about the marabou stork.

2. Great White Pelican—Pelecanus onocrotalus

Great white pelican
Great white pelican | Source

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.

Learn more about the great white pelican.

And the largest wingspan of any living bird belongs to . . .

1. Wandering Albatross—Diomedea exulans

Wandering albatross
Wandering albatross | Source

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.

Learn more about the wandering albatross.

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

Largest Bird on Earth

The largest living bird species by mass is the ostrich (Struthio camelus). Ostriches cannot fly, but are excellent runners!

Meanwhile, the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is the smallest bird species in the world.

Time to vote!

What is your favorite bird on this list?

See results

Were you surprised by this list? Please share your reactions! :)

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    • profile image

      Kenneth J Kucinsky 5 months ago

      Very informative!

      I was curious about a mythological bird called a Thunder bird, also, Marco Polo's journey spoke of an enormous bird in Africa.

    • profile image

      Philip 8 months ago

      Really appreciate your putting this information online.

      Thanks millions.

    • profile image

      8 months ago

      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 profile image

      Anita Hasch 9 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      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.

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      Jade 11 months ago

      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....

    • profile image

      bob 12 months ago

      it helped

    • profile image

      B Altenberndt 14 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Prickle Farmer 18 months ago

      Where is the wedge tailed eagle???

    • profile image

      brownie 2 years ago

      the golden eagle isn't the largest bird

    • profile image

      Chloe pang 2 years ago

      You rather say how long can the longest wing spanded bird fly!

    • profile image

      Ana 2 years ago

      What is a lens?

    • profile image

      Lee 2 years ago

      Wikipedia: "The longest-winged eagle ever was an Australian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) at 2.83 m (9.3 ft)"

    • profile image

      godzilla 2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      ferrug 2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Samantha Druhan 2 years ago

      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 profile image

      josietook 4 years ago

      Great lens!!

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 4 years ago from Redcar

      I enjoyed my visit - thank you.

    • profile image

      forkliftsafety 4 years ago

      Nice lens! Wondering if you know how wingspan is recorded? Are the numbers the "largest" or a statistical average of some sort?

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Congrats on your Purple Star. Nice lens. I love vultures myself.

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      This is an awesome lens. I love your pictures and the lens is very informative. Thanks for sharing.

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 4 years ago

      Wow! I never realized these birds have such long wingspans. Interesting lens.

    • SBPI Inc profile image

      SBPI Inc 4 years ago

      Tremendous lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      fcinternetmarketing 4 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed this site.

    • profile image

      GameHelp 4 years ago

      11.8 feet! That's amazing.

      Awesome lens.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      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 profile image

      JoleneBelmain 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      Will Marcus 4 years ago

      What a beautiful masterfully built Lens! The photos are stunning. Blessings, Will

    • profile image

      MythYes 4 years ago

      I didn't know that pelican is so huge. :) Nice lens by the way.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      OMENA777 4 years ago

      I loved you lens on birds. Well done.

    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      @Lensmaster...Congratulations on your Purple Star for this work of beauty on our wonderful birds!

    • profile image

      mistaben 4 years ago

      Really enjoyed your lens. I love whooper swan photo.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed the birds. Thank you.

    • profile image

      RaksTheBlogger 4 years ago

      Beautiful birds with massive wings!what's more?!Great lens!

    • profile image

      ConsumerProductAlly 4 years ago

      Love watching the birds with my children...Nice Lens!

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      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.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I occasionally see golden eagles near my house in Southern California.

    • profile image

      JohnSkimerhorn 4 years ago

      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.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      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.

    • profile image

      whitebob_king 4 years ago

      huge wings.amazing birds.fantastic picture.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      it is great ...... it was very informative ,,,,,,,

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Amazing statistics and photos on these species.

    • Makster01 profile image

      Makster01 4 years ago

      Wow, I never knew that these birds were so huge!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      wow! i had never been see these long birds .. great video.. thanks a lot for sharing..

      www.autobahnindustries.com/bit_breaker.php

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      ROCNatureGuy 4 years ago

      This was a cool page! The photos were great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      the Grey Crowned Crane are looking wonderful beautiful.. amazing eye's of brown eagle:-) thanks for sharing

      www.autobahnindustries.com/

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 4 years ago

      The pictures are amazing, i liked the Bearded Vulture photo. spectacular!!

    • JeffGilbert profile image

      JeffGilbert 4 years ago

      Great page on these birds. I kept waiting for the albatross, but I see, it's still the biggest wingspan.. :)

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Such wonderful majestic birds.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      A lovely lens

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I didn't know the Great White Pelican was so huge!

    • leesholden profile image

      Lee 4 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

      Great lens - very interesting! Loving the photo of the Great White Pelican as well, incredible image

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Many surprises!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      Really enjoyed this page. We are blessed with eagles in the area - I love to watch them soar

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      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.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      What a terrific lens! Thanks for all the great info and pictures ~ SquidAngel blessed!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 4 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      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 profile image

      giovi64 lm 4 years ago

      Fantastic lens.

      I love animals.

    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 4 years ago

      great info and some birds were ever never heard so far. good collection

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Love the photos.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Love the photos.

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Great lens! I've seen golden eagles near my home and they are huge!

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      xtianfriborg13 4 years ago

      Beautiful birds!!!!!!!!!! :)

    • Rodaussie profile image

      Rodaussie 4 years ago

      Amazing pics

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 4 years ago from Albany New York

      These birds are really impressive.

    • nettlemere lm profile image

      nettlemere lm 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      Wow! The scale surely helps put things into perspective... Great job on this lens!

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      ratetea 4 years ago

      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!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you very much keep up the amazing work.

    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 5 years ago

      I learned a lot from your lens. Very interesting and educational. Thanks !

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      pinkgrey 5 years ago

      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.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      That is crazy, I knew eagles had a huge wingspan but i never would have guessed it was that large.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I never realised their wings span was soooo long!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      RestlessKnights 5 years ago

      I was surprised. I didn't know that all these different types of birds had such enormous wingspans. Very enlightening lens.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for your visit and comment to my lens.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      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.

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      TTMall 5 years ago

      Great lens with excellent pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    • dogface lm profile image

      dogface lm 5 years ago

      3.6 meters?? That's...that's...too much. :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Stopped by to do some more bird watching on Squidoo...lol. :)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just got back from an expedition to Bolivia where we saw an andean condor so it gets my vote! It was huge

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      i was not surprised. albatross is my favorite. would you mind including the extinct bird, pterodactyl? congratulations for winning the purple star award.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      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.

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      CristianStan 5 years ago

      Awesome pictures and birds. It must be great to be able to fly like a bird!

    • elyria profile image

      elyria 5 years ago

      Wow, amazing lens and beautiful birds!

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      msseiboi 5 years ago

      Nice lens...

    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! Really enjoyed it.

    • sagebrushmama profile image

      sagebrushmama 5 years ago

      Amazing! Wonderful lens!

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 5 years ago

      I knew one or two - the rest of the list was a revelation - and fun to discover too! Thanks for sharing.

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      Eye-widening figures. I didn't know these guys are THIS big! Nice :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      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 profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Wonderful choices of some amazing birds! ~~Blessed by another bird lover~~

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Some very remarkable creatures here - thanks so much for sharing. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      Ben Z98 5 years ago

      I wonder if any of the birds can carry me around...

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      esichrissa 5 years ago

      WoW!!! very wide! thanks for spanning their beauty on this lens

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      JustOneGuy 5 years ago

      I was. I thought the Condor was the bird with the biggest wingspan.

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 5 years ago

      I've been fascinated by birds since I was a child. In fact, they inspired me to become a pilot, (helicopters) Hummingbirds are special! Thank you for a wonderful lens, nice work!