Modern dinosaurs: A look at some of the heaviest, biggest, and most remarkable giants of the bird world

Birds are widely believed to be the closest living relatives of dinosaurs. Feathers, hips, and wishbones are among the similarities scientists use to link theropods to birds over millions of years. The extinct elephant bird was one of the largest birds.

Curator of Birds Jean Woods, Ph.D., compiled a list of some of the current giants of the bird world:

Heaviest: Ostrich

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

This heavyweight is both the heaviest and the tallest living bird, with males growing up to nine feet (2.75 m) tall and 343 lbs (156 kg). The Ostrich also wins for largest egg, one of which is one view in the Museum’s galleries.

Heaviest flying bird: Kori Bustard

Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

Native to Africa, the Kori Bustard can weigh up to 42 lbs (19 kg). Perhaps that’s why this bird usually walks and only rarely flies.

Longest wingspan: Wandering Albatross and Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia by JJ Harrison (

These two birds tie for longest wingspan at up to 11.5 ft (351 cm). Long wings enable these seabirds to glide for extended time periods over remote parts of the ocean. The Wandering Albatross can spend hours in the air without flapping its wings.

Longest bill: Australian Pelican

An Australian Pelican swimming in Australia

An Australian Pelican swimming in Australia by Geoff Penaluna

The Australian Pelican’s bill grows to nearly 20 inches (50 cm) long, which is huge even by pelican standards. This seafaring bird uses its supersized bill to feed on fish and other water dwellers, expanding a pouch from the jaw to help hold meals.

Deepest dive: Emperor Penguin

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

The Emperor Penguin dives to depths of up to 1750 ft (534m) – that’s one-third of a mile! The species can stay underwater for nearly 16 minutes on fishing expeditions before returning to the surface for air.

Longest non-stop flight: Bar-tailed Godwit

Photo by Andreas Trepte,

The Bar-tailed Godwit has been documented to travel 7,145 miles (11,500 km) in just nine days. This bird’s amazing endurance helps it migrate across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Alaska.

Greatest annual mileage: Arctic Tern

Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay

When a version of this article was first published in our Discovery magazine in 2009, a recent study had clocked the Sooty Shearwater as traveling 40,000 miles per year (64,000 km/year). However the same electronic tag had not yet been applied to the Arctic Tern, traditionally believed to be the furthest traveler. In 2010, a study confirmed the Arctic Tern had the longest annual migration in the world at about 44,000 miles per year.