Humans have time and again taken inspiration from the natural world and flight is no exception. Our fascination with the flight was fuelled by watching birds and making the machine to imitate that mechanism. However, there are some natural feats that continue to surprise us and these high flying birds are the perfect examples. They have evolved natural mechanisms to sustain such high flight where there is less than 10% oxygen as compared to sea level and here is a list of the highest flying birds in the world.
Highest Flying Birds
|1||Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture||37000|
|8||Bar Tailed Godwit||20000|
1. Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture- 37000 feet
This vulture found in Central Africa is the highest flying bird known to reach heights of 37,000 feet. Since the oxygen available at this height is very less, this bird’s blood has a special type of haemoglobin adapted to absorb oxygen more effectively. It has very sharp eyesight and can spot prey from great heights.
Talking about the appearance, both males and females have similar colouration whether it is brown or black with a white underbelly. The eyes are amber to yellow in colour and they have exceptional powerful beaks. The bird species are highly social and usually gather in large flocks numbering in the thousands. The lifespan of the species in the wild is approximately 40 to 50 years. It spent much of its time at high altitudes in the sky searching for food and use slow, powerful wing beats or strong winds to conserve their energy.
2. Eurasian Crane- 33000 feet
This bird has different summer and winter habitats and achieves the highest height of 33,000 feet during its migratory flight between these habitats. In summer, it lives in Northern Europe and Asia and migrates to Northern Africa, flying over the Himalayas in characteristic ‘V’ shaped formations. It also undertakes one of the longest migratory flights in the world. The species can be seen on all continents except in South America and Antarctica. It prefers to live in wetlands and grasslands habitats.
Talking about the appearance, they have a long neck and legs with a streamlined body. The wings are long and round in shape. There are approximately 15 species of crane divided into 4 genera and all cranes differ in sizes from demoiselle crane, measures approximately 90 cm. in length, however, the sarus crane, also was known as world’s tallest flying bird can be upto 180 cm. The amazing bird species have excellent communications skills and use its own tone and volume that can range from soft honks of crowned cranes to the flutelike call of Siberian cranes, however, sometimes they also prefer body language for communication.
3. Bar-Headed Goose- 29000 feet
Like the Eurasian Crane, this is a migratory bird living in Central Asia and migrating south during the winter months. Flocks of Bar-headed geese fly over the Himalayas reaching a maximum height of 29,000 feet and are some of highest flying migratory birds in the world. They have a higher number of red blood cells enabling them to absorb oxygen even at low concentrations. You will be interested in reading about best singing birds in the world.
Talking about the appearance, the bird species is grey and white with two horseshoe-shaped and brownish-black bars on the back of its white head, however, the body is grey overall but the bill and legs are pink, orange, or yellow. It loves to eat plants and sometimes occasionally crustaceans and invertebrates. They love to thrive in high mountain lakes and mostly seen in southeast Russia, northern India and western China during the breeding season. They are also seen in northern India and northern Burma for the winter. They are capable of migrating more than 1,000 miles in a single day.
4. Whooper Swan- 27000 feet
These large migratory birds are commonly found in Southern Eurasia in the summer and migrate Westward in the winter to breed. Though they normally fly at heights of around 8,000 feet, flights as high as 27,000 feet have been recorded. They too fly in a ‘V’ formation and nest near water bodies like lakes, wetlands and ponds.
Talking about the appearance, the whooper swan has a long thin neck that is mostly in an erect position with black legs. The beak is black and has a large triangular patch of yellow on it. The species love to eat plants, grass, grain and potatoes. It can grow upto 140-160cm in length and weighs approximately 9 to 11 kg. The two species of swan come to the UK every year in winter, whooper swans migrate from Iceland and Bewick’s swans make the journey from Siberia.
5. Alpine Chough- 26500 feet
These birds live in the mountainous regions of Southern Europe and Central Asia and have adapted to the low oxygen conditions present at high altitudes. They normally nest at altitudes higher than 21,000 feet and are some of the highest flying birds due to their ability to reach heights of 26,500 feet when flying over mountain tops. We also recommend you to know about some of the strange looking birds in the world.
Let’s talk about the appearance of Alpine Chough, It has a glossy black plumage with a yellow bill and red legs. The bird species pairs for life and mostly breed in cave or crevice in a cliff face. It feeds mostly in flocks on short grazed grassland and usually fruits in winter, however, sometimes they also reach tourist sites to find supplementary food. They are mostly observed above the tree line, however, during winter season they can be also seen near villages in the valleys.
6. Bearded Vulture- 24000 feet
These birds live in the mountainous regions of Southern Europe. The bearded vulture is one of the largest birds and has a wingspan of over 8 feet which enables it to sustain flight at altitudes of about 24,000 feet making it one of the highest flying birds in the world. It uses the height to drop large pieces of bone to break it into smaller pieces which it then swallows. Also, please read about incredible and amazing arctic birds.
The bird species can grow up to 125 cm tall and have a wingspan of up to 2.8 metres. It is known to have unusual eating habits and they are the only bird in the world that lives entirely on bone marrow. They have a unique acid content in their stomach that is capable of breaking down small bones in less than 24 hours, however, larger bones they take them up and fly, later, they drop them in rocky areas until they break in small pieces. Talking about the appearance, the feathers on the chest, head and legs are creamy white, however, they appear orange because feathers are rubbed in mud and dirt.
7. Mallard- 21000 feet
This migratory duck is found in North America and Europe in the summer and migrates south to Asia, including India, during the winter. It can be identified by its shining green head and large yellow beak. Though it usually flies at the height of 4000 feet, it has been recorded even at the height of 21,000 feet and so is one of the highest flying birds in the world. You can also read about best singing birds in the world.
Talking about the appearance, both males and females can be distinguished very easily by the colour of the plumage. Males are known to have green heads with white collars and brown chests, however, the entire body of the female species is covered with brown feathers except for bluish-purple wings. The bird species usually migrate from north to the south during the winter to avoid scarcity of food. The ducks can survive 5 to 10 year in the wild and the oldest known mallard duck died at the age of 27 years.
8. Bar Tailed Godwit- 20000 feet
These migratory birds spend the breeding season in the extreme north – in Alaska as Siberia and move to Australia and New Zealand during the winter months. They fly at a height of 20,000 feet and also hold the record for the longest continuous migration covering a distance of over 11,000 kilometres in about seven days. The species arrive in every year in Australia in the month of August from breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere and their inhabits includes estuarine mudflats, beaches and mangroves. It loves to eat molluscs, worms and aquatic insects.
9. White Stork- 16000 feet
The White stork is a migratory bird living in Southern Europe and Central Asia and migrating to Africa in the winter months. They migrate in large flocks and can reach heights of up to 16,000 feet. They are easily identifiable because of their white wing feathers, long legs used for wading and black tail. Talking about the appearance, they are large, long-necked wading birds with long and stout bills. The bird species is common on all islands except Antartica, however, they prefer tropical regions.
There are 19 species of storks with a lifespan of 30 years, however, sometimes it can be 40 years too. The largest species of the stork is the marabou stork that can grow upto 152 centimetres and weighs approximately 9 kilograms and the smallest known stork species is hammerkop that can grow upto 56 centimetres and weighs around 470 grams. There are some species that are slate grey but most of them are white, red, and black. The species looks absolutely beautiful in flight and mostly fly by soaring on warm air currents with the help of long and broad wings that only flap occasionally.
10. Andean Condor- 15000 feet
This large bird lives in the Andes Mountains of South America and has adapted to its habitat and to flight at a great altitude. Despite a weight of about 15 kilogrammes, the strong flight muscles and large wings can help the bird reach a height of 15,000 feet where it glides using wind currents and looks for prey. Like the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, the Andean Condor is a scavenger and eats dead animals. Also, please read about cutest birds in the world.
The next time you get on a flight, be sure to think about these highest-flying birds in the world who can reach such great heights due to their natural adaptations.
However, the sad truth is that due to climate change most of the bird species are either endangered or extinct. As per the study was done by North American Bird Conservation, In countries like the United States, Canada and Mexico bird needs urgent conservation. A study also reveals that one-third of bird population are in danger. Oil spills in coastal, grassland and arid lands are one of the primary reason for the declining population. This is high time to take some action and take valuable steps against climate change. Also, Government of different countries should launch special conservation plans for species which are endangered and proper action should be taken without fail.
As per the report, a total of 37 per cent population is in danger. If a proper action will not be taken these beautiful birds will be extinct from planet Earth. Pollution and climate change is also one of the reasons for the declining population. Please read most beautiful birds around the Earth. This will give you an overview of how beautiful and colourful birds nature has given us. These are the highest flying birds in the world. Do post your comments.