List of birds by flight heights

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Migratory birds and birds of prey can reach substantial heights while flying. This list gives the highest recorded flights for various species (limited to observations of 4,500 metres/15,000 feet and above).

Birds by flight height[edit]

Bird Image Specie Family Maximum height Details
Rüppell's vulture Ruppelsvulture.jpg Gyps rueppellii Accipitridae 11,300 metres (37,100 feet).[1][2] Vultures use their excellent eyesight to scan the landscape below from a relatively static aerial position. Instead of flying over a larger distance, they use elevation to expand their field of vision. If they spot a meal down below, the climb has an immediate payoff.[3]
Common crane Grus grus 2 (Marek Szczepanek).jpg Grus grus Gruidae 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) This height was recorded above the Himalayas.[2] This great height allows them to avoid eagles in mountain passes.[2]
Bar-headed goose Oie à tête barrée - Bar-headed goose.jpg Anser indicus Anatidae 8,800 metres (29,000 feet)[2][4][5] They also fly over the peaks of the Himalayas on their migratory path.[4]
Whooper swan Whooper Swan at Big Waters.jpg Cygnus cygnus Anatidae 8,200 metres (27,000 feet) This height was attained by a flock of whooper swans flying over Northern Ireland, and recorded by radar.[2][5]
Alpine chough Alpine Chough by Jim Higham.jpg Pyrrhocorax graculus Corvidae 8,000 metres (26,500 feet) This height was recorded on Mount Everest.[5]
Bearded vulture Bartgeier Gypaetus barbatus front Richard Bartz.jpg Gypaetus barbatus Accipitridae 7,300 metres (24,000 feet).[1]
Andean condor AndeanCondorMale.jpg Vultur gryphus Cathartidae 6,500 metres (21,300 feet)[6]
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos male female quadrat.jpg Anas platyrhynchos Anatidae 6,400 metres (21,000 feet) This height was recorded over Nevada.[1][4][5]
Bar-tailed godwit BartailedGodwit24.jpg Limosa lapponica Scolopacidae 6,000 metres (20,000 feet)[5][7] It can reach this height while migrating.
White stork Ciconia ciconia - 01.jpg Ciconia ciconia Ciconiidae 4,800 metres (16,000 feet).[7] It can reach this height while migrating.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Laybourne, Roxie C. (December 1974). "Collision between a Vulture and an Aircraft at an Altitude of 37,000 Feet". The Wilson Bulletin. Wilson Ornithological Society. 86 (4): 461–462. ISSN 0043-5643. JSTOR 4160546. OCLC 46381512.
  2. ^ a b c d e Carwardine, Mark (2008). Animal Records. Sterling. p. 124. ISBN 1402756232.
  3. ^ "The Ruppells Griffon Vulture; The Highest Recorded Flying Bird". Boston University.
  4. ^ a b c Lincoln, Frederick C. (1999). Migration of Birds. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p. 30. ISBN 0160617014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Whiteman, Lily (2000). "The High Life". Audubon. 102 (6): 104–108. Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  6. ^ Gargiulo, Carolina Natalia (2012). Distribución y situación actual del cóndor andino (Vultur gryphus) en las sierras centrales de Argentina (PDF) (Thesis). Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  7. ^ a b Elphick, Jonathan (2007). The Atlas of Bird Migration: Tracing the Great Journeys of the World's Birds. Struik. p. 23. ISBN 1770074996.