19 Largest Birds in North America

Largest Birds in North America
Photo by Zdeněk Macháček

The largest birds in North America, both by weight and by wingspan, are members of the crane family, which sounds like a trumpet.

Their dark-colored bodies are set off by white plumage around their face, neck, and wings. As well as a prominent black neck and head feathers. 

Also, they are often found near lakes and rivers, eating aquatic plants and small animals such as fish and froghall. Truer swans spend much of their time swimming.

However, it will often find dry land to perch on during breeding season or winter months when it’s too cold to swim.

Steller’s Sea Eagle

Steller’s sea eagle is one of the largest birds in North America. It is a large brown eagle with all-dark wings, tail, and legs. 

The only difference between it and the common bald eagle is that its head, neck, breast, belly, and tail are a rich chocolate brown. The species was once found across Eurasia in three separate populations.

 In 1973, due to conservation efforts led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), hunting was banned, which allowed numbers to rebound again until they were brought down by an avian disease epidemic called polyoma in 1977. 

As a result of this pandemic, many breeding pairs were lost. And as such, there were fewer offspring produced.

Andean Condors

The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a South American bird of prey. One of three closely related New World vultures is also known as condors.

It ranges from Patagonia to Northern Argentina and Chile. However, the Andean Condor is a scavenger and an obligate carrion eater, feeding mainly on large vertebrates, which it robs from other predators.

It reaches a total length of 3 meters (10 ft), with a wingspan up to 4.3 meters (14 ft). The weight can reach 22 kilograms (50 pounds). The plumage is black with white markings on its wings, and it has a petite featherless redhead.

Whooping Crane

At 5 feet tall, whooping cranes are one of the largest birds in North America. They have a 7-foot wingspan and stand 4 feet tall.

Whooping cranes look like a cross between a stork and an emu. It has long legs with black webbed feet and brown eyes. 

Also, these cranes favor wetlands but can be found on prairies or grasslands. They primarily eat bugs, shrimp, and frogs in their winter habitat. They will consume small rodents during warm months when food is scarce.

California Vulture

The California condor is one of two species of New World vultures, and its wingspan of up to 10 feet (3 meters) makes it more significant than any other bird in North America. The bird has a black body, with a bald pink head and neck. 

Also, Its diet consists mainly of carrion such as dead fish, mammals, or birds. Researchers have been trying to reintroduce them into California after human-related causes nearly wiped them out.

This massive scavenger lives across much of Mexico and the western U.S., from British Columbia to South Carolina. The only region where it is still found regularly is outside captivity.

Common Raven

The Great Blue Heron is one of the largest birds in North America. This creature usually has a height of around 3.5 to 4 feet and a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. This bird mainly lives in coastal areas and wetland habitats, and its diet consists primarily of fish.

However, It is not very common for them to travel far from their nests, with most staying within 2 miles for their entire lifetime.

They are found throughout all of Canada and most states (excluding Florida), as well as Mexico and parts of Central America. The Great Blue Heron has sharp claws for defense or tearing apart prey.

Also, it has long dagger-like beaks with which it can spear its food before devouring it whole.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird native to North America. It breeds in southern Canada, south through most of the United States, Central America, and South America, and is rare but increasing in Bermuda. 

Also, the great blue heron is distributed throughout much of North America, but it can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It has been recorded at 10,800 feet above sea level along Volcán Tajumulco in Guatemala.

Ferruginous Hawk

With a wingspan of 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more, one might mistake a Ferruginous Hawk for an eagle at first glance. But it has very sharp nails and is also one of the largest birds in North America. It’s much smaller than most eagles and primarily feeds on small mammals instead of birds. 

However, many eagles have signature calls or behaviors that make them easy to spot, and Ferruginous Hawks are quiet and elusive. That said, they are relatively common throughout their range—and well worth keeping an eye out for.

Snowy Owl

The largest birds in North America, such as the snowy owl, can measure up to three feet long. The adults are white with black-speckled feathers and yellow eyes, while juveniles are a mottled grey color.

Snowy owls live year-round on both coasts and commonly reside along tundra edges. Hence, they’re known for their distinctive calls—which can carry more than three miles through snowstorms.

They’re also vocal during courtship (the male will perch on high ground, like a rock outcropping or tree branch, and call loudly). The diet of snowy owls consists of voles, lemmings, hares, and small mammals; they rarely hunt birds.

Great Horned Owl

With a wingspan of up to 6 feet. Great Horned Owls are one of the most impressive birds of prey on Earth and also one of the largest birds in North America.

They can also be fierce predators and have been known to bring down skunks, raccoons, and small deer. Furthermore, their hunting prowess doesn’t end with large mammals.

These raptors, such as geese and crows, can even take out birds several times their size. Fun fact: they’re also called Tiger Owls because their call is reminiscent of a growling tiger.

Golden Eagle

With a wing span of up to 7.5 feet, it’s no wonder that golden eagles can soar with ease. Golden eagles are magnificent birds that have been observed flying at altitudes of 10,000 feet and can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour.

These raptors will often fly near and over their prey, scanning for movement below while searching for an advantageous position to strike from above.

When they finally spot something, they dive as fast as 150 miles per hour and snatch up their unsuspecting victim before retreating into the sky.

While we may not see these birds soaring overhead daily (they reside across North America), we have certainly seen them grace our television screens!

Wandering Albatross 

Also known as Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans is a large seabird. It can be found on a few islands and atolls across the southern oceans. Its wingspan ranges from 122 to 159 cm (48 to 62 inches). 

In addition, these are the Largest birds in North America, and they are very long-lived birds. The oldest known member of any bird species was a banded wandering albatross.

It was 62 years old when it was recaptured and re-banded in 1997. The sex ratio between males and females is 1:1.

Although, it has more males on Bouvetøya than on other breeding grounds because they mate with more females while visiting other breeding areas. It produces almost exclusively on small isolated islands with steep slopes.

Harpy Eagle

With a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet. There are not a lot of people who will disagree that harpy eagles are among some of the largest birds in North America.

These magnificent creatures have been known to live as long as 40 years and can be found in Central and South America. Harpy eagles feed on mammals such as sloths and monkeys.

Also, even other birds (and they can eat up to 80% of their body weight at one time). They also use their impressive talons for climbing trees.

The average lifespan for these majestic creatures is between 20-30 years. But it has been reported that they can live up to 50 years or more!

Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture is a bird of prey native to North and South America and one of the largest birds in North America. In Florida, they are called turkey buzzards. They eat mainly carrion but can sometimes feed on small animals that kill themselves. 

Also, It is one of only two New World vultures that feed almost exclusively on carcasses, although a few other birds also do.

Black Vulture

It extends from southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, southwards through central Mexico to Central America as far south as Nicaragua and Honduras.

Though an omnivore, it prefers animal matter and incredibly plump rodents, such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels but with some reptile, amphibian, bird, and insect protein.

Osprey

This is one of the largest birds in North America. A large brown hawk, the osprey is a fierce predator that can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour when diving for its prey. They use their large paws for hunting fish and other animals. 

They’ve also been known to take down other birds and even deer occasionally. Ospreys live around marshes, lakes, rivers, and ponds throughout most of North America, Alaska, Canada, and Alaska, being their favored habitats.

A total growth, an osprey, will stand between 19-24 inches tall (not including its tail feathers), with a wingspan reaching almost five feet long. 

In addition, the heaviest female on record was found to weigh 3.2 pounds; males are about half a pound lighter than females.

Bald Eagle

This is one of the largest birds in North America. The Bald Eagle has an average wingspan of 6.5 to 7 feet and can weigh up to 14 pounds. This bird is found throughout most of North America, except for parts of Canada and Alaska, due to its dependence on fish for food. Eight young deer.

Great Gray Owl

With a wingspan of over five feet, these owls are among the largest birds in North America. They are excellent hunters and have no natural predators with feathers that make virtually no sound when they move through their environment. 

Furthermore, Great Gray Owls can swoop down on their prey and silently pick them off with their razor-sharp talons.

Imagine if you were a mouse being hunted by one of these bad boys! It would be pretty terrifying. A wolf’s howl could wake up a whole village at night, but not if it’s coming from THIS guy! 

American White Pelican

This is one of the largest birds in North America and is also one of its most social birds. Found coast to coast, these giant waterfowl can often be seen standing together always.

They dive into lakes and rivers to feed on fish and other aquatic animals. Their size can be intimidating, but they are harmless creatures.

 However, it’s best not to get too close if you encounter them up close. They have been known to attack people that come too close but are more likely just trying to protect their food source. They eat a wide variety of foods, including carp, minnows, trout, bluegill, and even tiny turtles!

Trumpeter Swan

One of the largest birds in North America is named the Trumpeter swan. The Trumpeter swan is a large waterfowl with a black neck and head, white plumage, and orange or red bill. 

Also, its adults are roughly between 4.3 to 6 feet long, with males typically larger than females. There is no difference between males and females except for size.

Males also have significantly longer bills than females. Their wingspan can be anywhere from 7 to 8 feet long, making them one of the largest flying birds in North America. 

In addition to their large bodies, they have very long necks that reach about 2 feet from their body length when fully extended.

Trumpeter swans prefer lakes, rivers, and other freshwater habitats. They are also standard on open grasslands near water sources where there’s available food.

Conclusion

The largest bird found on American soil is currently and has always been, by far, its national symbol: The Bald Eagle. This is not a very close competition.

It might not even be a competition; one of these birds might as well be an entirely different species than any other bird on Earth because they seem to exist on another plane of existence.

Who knows, maybe they do. Perhaps they’re eagles from another planet who have escaped intergalactic prison and returned to their rightful home here on Earth. Maybe that’s why their sightings are so rare—they can’t stand to stay around here for too long.

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