Birds are among the most remarkable creatures on Earth, boasting an astonishing variety of colors and patterns that span from minute hummingbirds to massive ostriches.
Over millions of years, birds have evolved over millions to fill ecological niches once occupied by large dinosaurs. Some became large enough to fly while others remained on land.
1. Great White Pelican
A great white pelican is one of the world’s largest birds and part of the Pelecaniformes family, distinguishable by having all four toes webbed (known as totipalmate).
These social birds form flocks for safety in numbers and usually roost on the ground; although trees may occasionally provide temporary perches. When bathing, they submerge themselves completely in water with wings fluttering gently to cool off.
Flight is effortless for them as they glide effortlessly with just a few wing beats. V formations are the norm but they may swoop around close to the ground too.
Predators inhabit swamps, marshes, and deltas across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, preferring secure areas along rivers, lakes and saline wetlands as their home.
Breeding occurs on the ground, often in a hollow or scrape of sand with sticks and grass nearby. They lay two chalky white eggs which they incubate for 30 days before both males and females take turns caring for their chicks after they hatch – becoming monogamous partners over time.
2. Antipodean Albatross
Diomedea antipodensis, commonly referred to as an Antipodean Albatross, is a large seabird in the albatross family found throughout Southern Hemisphere waters. Although large in comparison with wandering albatrosses, its size remains relatively minor when measured against these other birds.
These birds spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only for breeding purposes on subantarctic islands. When breeding occurs on these islands, enduring pairs form that remain until one of them dies and children are raised every two years.
Breeding involves an elaborate courtship display consisting of singing and dancing performances; then after pairing up, each partner takes turns caring for the egg.
These species feed mostly at sea, seizing and plunging to capture fish, cephalopods, and krill. Carrion including dead whales and seals is also consumed regularly.
As with many seabirds, Antipodean Albatross are vulnerable to pollution and other environmental factors that threaten its habitat, while they face additional threats from commercial fishing operations.
Antipodean Albatrosses are an endangered species in New Zealand, particularly around Auckland and Antipodes Islands where populations have seen declines of 6-15% over the past decade. Long-line fisheries pose the greatest threat, killing thousands each year; as per International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources status guidelines, its population could soon become extinct.
3. Black-browed Albatross
The Black-browed Albatross is one of the largest birds on Earth, measuring 31-37 inches long and weighing between 2.9 and 4.7 pounds. With an incredible wingspan of up to 94 inches and living up to 70 years.
The black-browed albatross is a pelagic species, meaning that it spends most of its time flying over open ocean. Thanks to its wide wings, this bird can stay aloft for hours on end without getting tired and tiresome.
This species features white feathers on its head, neck, mantle, rump and uppertail coverts; while its underwing features black leading edges and trailing edges with narrower black trailing edges that end at its black tip wing tip – which accounts for its name: Black-browed Albatross.
As with other albatrosses, this species features a long beak to catch prey while its wings act as propellers when diving underwater.
BirdLife International considers this albatross endangered due to habitat loss and competition with fisheries for resources, as well as potential threats such as cats and rats that have found their way into its colonies.
The Black-Browned Albatross breeds in nesting colonies with over 180,000 pairs worldwide, and is an extremely mobile bird, capable of covering 500 to 3,000 miles every day in search of food sources. However, during most daytime hours this species prefers staying alone until there’s an opportunity for feedings of significant scale.
4. White-tailed Sea Eagle
The White-tailed Sea Eagle is an impressive bird of prey. Part of the Accipitridae family, it includes eagles, hawks and kites.
Diurnal raptors such as the red-shouldered hawk are diurnal hunters that hunt at dawn and dusk. Once common across Europe and Mediterranean regions, this species saw its numbers decrease drastically during the 19th century due to habitat destruction and climate change.
Fish are their main diet, but they also feed on birds and small mammals as well as carrion in autumn and winter when ice cover on lakes is less dense.
They boast large hooked bills and strong legs. Furthermore, their eyes are huge with great vision capabilities.
This species can be found throughout temperate regions in Northern Europe and North Asia, though some populations migrate south during winter migration patterns.
These birds can be seen both coastally and freshwater environments, mainly lowland areas (up to 2,300m) with trees as nesting sites or wooded and open areas with tall trees for nesting purposes. Sea cliffs or forests with tall trees tend to be particularly preferred habitats.
These birds are formidable predators, capable of reaching 17lbs! One of the world’s largest species.
5. Steller’s Sea Eagle
The Steller’s Sea Eagle is one of the world’s largest birds, measuring an impressive body length from head to tail with an eight-foot wingspan. It boasts dark brown plumage with striking white wings and tail feathers; further enhanced by yellow beak and talons that add visual interest and enhance its appeal.
This coastal species can be found throughout northeastern Asia and feeds on fish and water birds; its primary diet consists of piscivory (the consumption of meat). Furthermore, they serve as both predator and prey in nature.
Fish-eating birds primarily hunt from perches in the air, though they can also take prey by diving down into water bodies and diving for prey there. Their diet typically consists of dead and living fish as well as water birds and mammals – they even scavenge for dead or living aquatic mammals to find sustenance for themselves and their young.
These raptors are formidable predators that can survive long periods of time in harsh habitats, yet remain vulnerable to many threats.
Russia, for instance, faces threats to these eagles from hydroelectric power projects and logging, which cuts down trees that they need for nesting or hunting perches. They are also at risk from pollution in their water source as well as overfishing that contaminates fish with lead poisoning toxins.
Raptors are protected under various laws across the world, such as in the US, Japan and Europe. Japan classifies them as National Treasures while globally they are considered vulnerable species.
6. Haast’s Eagle
The Haast’s Eagle is not only one of the world’s largest birds but also one of its most distinctive. A member of Hieraaetus genus, it once thrived as a predator on New Zealand’s South Island.
Prior to humans arriving, New Zealand was home to a vibrant ecosystem teeming with unique birds, such as the extinct moa, an enormous flightless bird which provided Haast’s Eagles with food sources.
Maori people’s arrival to New Zealand had an unprecedented effect on moas populations; their overhunting led them to kill off moas and cause their extinction, leaving the Haast’s Eagle with only itself as its prey.
As a result, the giant eagle had to adapt rapidly in order to survive; its legs became longer, its body larger, and it became more like a vulture, eating its prey’s head and organs more readily than before. Biologist Matt Knapp believes this rapid change of size is a rare example of evolution happening quickly – and is trying to understand which genes were altered for such rapid expansion of an animal species.
7. Eurasian Eagle Owl
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is one of the largest birds in the world and an apex predator with unique vocalizations that enable it to easily identify individual members of its population. Male calls feature a deep resonant ooh-hu with emphasis on its first syllable; female calls feature high-pitched uh-Hus for differentiation purposes.
Wild eagle-owls are predatory carnivores that feed on mammals, birds and invertebrates. While most often seen hunting in forests or open areas near bodies of water, wild eagle-owls may also search for prey on land or even at night in open spaces or by using radar technology to locate it.
Peregrines typically use a hunting strategy that begins by perching on an exposed surface and searching for potential prey, then swooping in and catching it when it approaches their nest. They may also employ another tactic such as swooping from either ground or sky and capturing prey in crevices of rocks.
Eurasian Eagle Owls can be found living in many environments, from coniferous forests and tropical rain forests, through temperate and tropical forest to the tundra of central Asia, where they prefer breeding in mountainous regions with cliffs or rocks as breeding sites. Eurasian Eagle Owls live from sea level up to approximately 2000 meters in Europe or 4200-4500 meters in Central Asia (ranging between 4200-4500 meters respectively).