Puzzled Parent

October 23, 2006, 10:42 pm
Filed under: PLANTS + ANIMALS

by puzzledparent 

My son loves wildlife and is always curious about their behaviors.  One time he asked me How high do birds fly?  I had very little to say, except that different species fly at different altitudes (heights), for example, eagles fly higher than song birds, but I really didn’t have a specific height to tell him.  A week or so later we visited the Montclair Hawk Watch and he asked the local birders the same question and got a better response.  One participant explained that the condors of South America flew high into the mountains of the Andes, which is pretty high, but gave no specific tangible height.  Still not satisfied, I decided to search for the highest flyers and other interesting bird facts so here it goes…  [By the way, the day we visited the Hawk Watch we saw over 75 hawks and a couple of eagles — it was quite the experience.]

HOW HIGH DO BIRDS FLY?  Much higher than I thought.  Most of the year birds fly around 500 feet or less which is where most of their food and shelter can be found.  However during migration time many birds fly as high as 2,000-5,000 feet.  That’s between 7 and 17 football fields!  At these altitudes birds are able to take advantage of the stronger wind currents to aid in their long journey.  But wait, long distance migratory birds can start their travels at 5,000 feet and climb to 20,000 feet (that’s 67 football fields — the largest mountain in North America, Alaska’s Denali — formally known as Mt McKinley, is 20,320 feet!)   Birds are able to reach these high altitudes because they become lighter in the higher atmospheres.  But wait we are not quite finished, the highest recorded flight was 37,900 feet, at which height a Ruppell Griffon, a North African vulture,  hit a jet — great for recording the height, but not so much for the bird.  For those keeping track that is about 1 1/2 miles higher than Mt. Everest — the highest mountain on earth which is 29,028 feet or nearly 100 football fields — incidentally, the bird was 25 football fields above that.  Not bad for an animal that has only 2 wings.

Next, a few extreme facts about birds to wow you child  …

OTHER BIRD FACTS:  Now that we have established that birds are not afraid of heights, what other extreme facts are out there about birds?  Most of you may know that the ostrich is flightless and is the largest bird, but did you know that males can grow to the height of 9 1/2 feet and weigh 330 pounds — now that’s some middle linebacker.  Ostriches are also the fastest land bird and can run at a clip of 45 miles per hour (they can easily maintain the speed of 30 m.p.h.) and their powerful legs can also protect them from lions — even kill one with a swift kick.  The native African savanna bird is also known for it incredibly large egg, which is the largest at approximately 6 inches by 5 inches and weighing 3 pounds or more — that is the size of a large grapefruit and heavier.  Quite impressive.  The fastest flying bird is the peregrine falcon which can dive at speeds nearing 200 m.p.h..  Now that’s fast.  Birds are amazing animals and there is not enough space to explore all of the interesting facts about birds, but hopefully this article has answered the original question for you (how high?) and has you interested in learning more on your own.  If you find out some interesting bird facts, please comment on this article and let us know.


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