Extreme Facts About Birds, Bird Records

Largest recorded nesting bird colony: 136 million passenger pigeons nesting in an area in Wisconsin covering 1,942 sq km (750 sq mi).

Most abundant wild bird: Red-billed quelea at up to 100 billion.

Most northerly nesting bird: Ivory gull at edge of pack ice about 400 mi south of the North Pole.

Bird with the safest nesting ground: Providence petrel on Lord Howe Island off Australia (no predators).

Bird with the most dangerous nesting ground: Japanese white-naped crane in the DMV between North and South Korea.

Largest ground nest: Dusky scrubfowl nest at 36 ft wide and 16 ft high with over 300 tons of forest floor litter.

Largest tree nest: bald eagle in Florida at 20 ft deep, 9.5 ft wide and weighing almost 3 tons.

Smallest nest: Cuban bee and vervain hummingbirds at 0.78 in in breadth and 0.78-1.2 in deep

Largest egg laid by bird existing today: ostrich; 7 by 4.5 inches.

Heaviest recorded egg laid by any bird ever: extinct elephant bird; 18 lb.

Largest egg laid relative to body weight: little spotted kiwi and storm petrel at 25%.

Smallest egg lid relative to body weight: ostrich egg at 1-1.5%

Smallest egg: West Indian vervain hummingbird at 10 mm (0.39 in) in length and ).375 g (0.0132 oz)

Longest uninterrupted incubation period: emperor penguin at 64-67 days

Shortest incubation period: 11 days by small passerines

Longest one-way migration (assuming a coastal route): common tern at 26,000 km (16,210 mi) in January 1997

Longest two-way annual migration: Arctic tern nesting in the Arctic and wintering in the Antarctic up to 17,700 km (11,000 mi) each way

Longest distance flown non-stop relative to a small body size: 800 km (500 mi) by ruby-throated hummingbird migrating across the Caribbean Gulf

Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding
Click to enlarge

Bird photography courtesy of Laura Johnston

Birds with the least connection to land: ancient murrelet

Most aquatic bird: penguins with 75% of their lives spent in the sea

Fastest running bird: ostrich at 60 mph

Fastest running flying bird: Greater roadrunner at 26 mph

Furthest distance walked by a migrating bird: emu in Australia (320 mi)

Fastest underwater swimming bird: gentoo penguin at 22.3 mph

One pigeon was recorder flying for several hours at 110 mph, an Olympian feat by any measure.

Deepest dive for non-flying bird: emperor penguin at 1,772 ft

Greatest weight-carrying capacity feat: Pallas's fish eagle (8 lb) lifting a carp (13 lb), i.e. 160% of its body weight.

Heaviest and tallest bird: ostrich at maximum 345 lb and 9 ft

Heaviest flying bird: Great bustard at maximum 46.3 lb

Tallest flying bird: Sarus crane at 6 ft

Greatest wingspan: wandering albatross at up to 11 ft 11 in

Greatest wingspan of landbirds: Andean condor and marabou stork tied at 10.5 ft

Smallest bird: Bee hummingbird at 2.24 in and 0.056 oz

Longest legs: ostrich

Longest legs relative to body length: black-winged stilt at 9 in or 60% of its height

Absolute shortest legs: virtually non-existent in swifts

Longest bill relative to body length: sword-tailed pine cones

Longest feathers: onagadory, a domestic strain of red jungle fowl, at 34.75 ft

Longest tail feathers: crested argus pheasant at 5.7 ft

Widest tail feathers: crested argus pheasant at 5.1 in

Shortest tails: virtually non-existent in kiwis, emus, rheas, cassowaries

Greatest number of feathers: whistling swan at 25,216

Lowest number of feathers: ruby-throated hummingbird at 940

Fastest moving bird: diving peregrine falcon reliably measured at 200 mph

Fastest flapping flight: white-throated needle-tailed swift at 106 mph

Fastest level flight: red-breasted merganser at 100 mph

Fastest moving racing pigeon: 110 mph

Slowest flying bird: American woodcock at 5 mph

Fastest wingbeat: hummingbirds; e.g. amethyst woodstar and horned sungem at 90/sec

Keenest sense of smell: kiwi, turkey vulture, petrel

Keenest sense of hearing: barn owl (the best tested), screech owl, boreal owl, great gray owl

Highest visual acuity: diurnal raptors with over 1 million cones per sq.mm in the retinal fovea

Best light-gathering capacity at night: owls

Highest daily frequency of pecking: 12,000 times by black woodpecker

Most intelligent bird: African gray parrot, crow family, "bait-fishing" green and striated herons

Most talkative bird: African gray parrot with a vocabulary of 800 words

Greatest bird mimic: Marsh warbler with up to 84 songs

Most songs sung per unit time: 22,197 in 10 hours by a red-eyed vireo

Bird with the farthest carrying sound: Boom of the kakapo of New Zealand heard 4 mi away

Birds capable of echolocation: cave swiftlets and oilbirds

Greatest hibernator: poorwill with body temperature lowered to 64-68 degrees F

Fastest heartbeat: hummingbird at 16 beats per second

Coldest temperature regularly endured by a bird: average temperatures of -50 degrees F (-45.6 degrees C ) for emperor penguins

Coldest temperature endured by a bird: -80.5 degrees F (-62.5 degrees C) by snowy owls

Coldest temperature on land where a bird has been recorded: -129 degrees F (- 89.6 degrees C)

Warmest temperature regularly endured by a bird: larks and wheatears at (111-113 degrees F (44-45 degrees C)

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