Top 10 Highest Flying Birds
Migratory birds and birds of prey are often known to reach great heights in the air. The Rüppell’s Vulture is known to reach altitudes of 37,000 feet.
10. White stork – 16,000 feet
The white stork (Ciconia ciconia) breeds in Europe, southwestern Asia, northwestern and southern Africa. The bird is a long distance migrant and travels from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Africa, and the Indian sub-continent during winter. The white stork avoids the Mediterranean Sea during such migrations and instead detours via the Levant. The white stork is one of the highest flying birds in the world and can achieve altitudes of 4,800 meters (16,000 feet) while migrating.
9. Bar-tailed godwit – 20,000 feet
The bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica) breeds in the tundra and Arctic coasts of Eurasia and winters in the tropical and temperate habitat of Europe, Africa, Asia and even as far as Australia and New Zealand. The bar-tailed godwit is unique in that its migration is the longest non-stop migration of avian species in the world. Also, it has set the record for performing the longest journey without pausing to feed. During its migration, the bird has been recorded to fly as high as 6,000 meters (20,000 feet).
8. Mallard – 21000 feet
The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), a dabbling duck, is widespread in distribution and its range encompasses both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. The birds in the northern parts of the breeding range exhibit migratory behavior. For example, birds inhabiting northern ranges of North America migrate south to Mexico or further south to Central America as well as the Caribbean. Mallards have been observed to fly as high as 6,400 meters (21,000 feet).
7. Andean condor – 21,300 feet
The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is regarded to be the largest flying bird in the world, living in the South American Andes Mountains. It has a wingspan of 3.3 m. The bird is also one of the highest flying birds in the world and can fly up to 6,500 meters (21,300 feet) in the air.
6. Bearded vulture – 24,000 feet
The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), a bird of prey, is found in the mountainous regions of Asia, Africa, and Europe. These birds, though sparsely distributed, are sighted in the Himalayas, the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Zagros Mountains, the Altai Mountains and other mountain ranges in the Old World. Bearded vultures live at high altitudes and are rarely spotted at altitudes below 1,000 m (3,300 ft). These high flying birds have even been recorded flying at heights up to 7,300 meters (24,000 feet).
5. Alpine chough – 26,500 feet
The Alpine chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) is an avian species belonging to the crow family. These birds breed in the high mountains of Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. The eggs of these birds are well adapted to tolerate the lack of oxygen in the thin atmosphere at the high altitudes where the bird resides. Reports mention alpine chough sightings at heights of 8,000 meters (26,500 feet), flying over the tall Himalayan peaks, including the highest one, the Mount Everest.
4. Whooper swan – 27,000 feet
Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) are beautiful birds that pair for life. These birds inhabit wetland areas in Europe and Asia. They breed in subarctic Eurasia and during winters migrate southwards to southern Europe and eastern Asia and occasionally the Indian subcontinent. The migration of these birds is highly coordinated with the birds communicating with each other by using a variety of signaling movements. Whooper swans are one of the strongest contenders for the title of the highest flying bird in the world. A radar record has shown a flock of these birds flying at 8,200 meters (27,000 feet) over Northern Ireland.
3. Bar-headed goose – 27,825 feet
The bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) inhabits the high-altitude lakes in Asia where it feeds on the short grasses by the lake. These birds exhibit a unique migratory pattern. They migrate from the mountainous regions of Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan across the Himalayas to the Indian sub-continent in winter. There are reports of sightings of these birds above Mount Makalu (8,481 m or 27,825 ft) and even Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth at 8,481 m (27,825 ft).
2. Common crane – 33,000 feet
The common crane (Grus grus) breeds in northern parts of Europe and Asia. It winters predominantly in northern Africa although some populations also winter in parts of southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and eastern Asia. As per reports, the common crane has been sighted flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) while crossing the Himalayas. The ability of these birds to fly so high allows them to avoid the predatory eagles.
1. Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture – 37,000 feet
The Ruppell’s griffon vulture (Gyps rueppellii) is the highest flying bird in the world. This vulture species is found in the Sahel region of central Africa. Unfortunately, the Rüppell’s griffon vulture is currently critically endangered with a population of 30,000. The population of this species is also steadily declining, and factors such as poisoning by elephant poachers and habitat destruction are the main threats to the survival of this species. This highest flying bird has been recorded to fly at an altitude of 11,300 meters (37,000 feet). They use their keen eyesight to scan the ground below from extreme heights and then once a meal is spotted, they swoop down to grab the prey.
Which Bird Flies the Highest?
The Rüppell’s Vulture is known to reach altitudes of 37,000 feet. This vulture species is found in the Sahel region of central Africa. Unfortunately, the Rüppell’s griffon vulture is currently critically endangered with a population of 30,000.