What Birds Have the Greatest Wing Spread?


The two groups of birds that have the largest wing-spread are the albatrosses and the condors, but there is no evidence that either of them has a wingspread of 17 or 18 feet, as has been reported.

A recent edition of a well-known encyclopedia, for instance, states that the albatross may have a wingspread of seventeen feet, but an expert on birds of this type, Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum, says that this figure is far too high.

The maximum spread for the Wandering Albatross is probably 11 feet 4 inches, a figure that represents the wingspread of the largest of hundreds of specimens measured by several different men. As for the condor, although greater spreads have been reported, the largest recent measurement that I have found was a fraction over 10 feet, for a condor shot by Murphy off the coast of Peru.

The bird weighed 28 and a half pounds. Some biologists still maintain that the condor has the greater wingspread, but others, including myself, favor the albatross. The wing spreads of a few species of large birds are indicated in the table below.

SpeciesMaximum Wing SpreadRemarks
Wandering albatross11 to 12 feet11 feet 4 inches is the largest spread by actual measurement that can be accepted at present.
Condors10 to 11 feetThe largest recent measurement of a South American condor which I have found was slightly over 10 feet.
King vulture9 to 10 feetFound in northern South America, Mexico and Central America.
White pelican8 to 9 feetFound in Canada and South to Yellowstone Park. In winter occurs along the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Great bustard8 to 9 feetA large gooselike game bird related to the cranes. Rather widely distributed in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Bald eagle7 to 8 feetWidely distributed over Canada, the United States and on south into Mexico.
Golden eagle7 to 8 feetWidely distributed in North America, Europe and Asia. In the United States, more common west of the Mississippi River.
Man-o-war or frigate bird7 to 8 feetFound in the United States chiefly off the coast of Florida. Also occurs farther south.
Whooping crane7 to 8 feetFound chiefly in Canada, although it migrates as far south as Texas in winter. Now exceedingly rare.
Sandhill crane6 to 7 feetRather widely distributed in Canada and the United States, but quite shy and seldom seen by the average person.
Brown pelican6 to 7 feetOccurs along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and south into Central and South America.
Turkey vulture or buzzard6 to 7 feetI once measured a specimen with a wing spread of exactly 6 feet. Found over most of the United States and south into Central and South America.