Tag Archives: biology

Birdwatcher Trivia

Mary and I spotted a flock of about 100 huge white birds flying in a single V on the Turkey Float yesterday. I believe they were tundra swans, because the mute variety aren’t fond of flying at all if they can help it, and they definitely don’t fly at the altitude of a small jet plane like these birds were.  And trumpeter swans (formerly called whistling swans) are still very rare in the Midwest.

Which got me to wondering: how high do birds fly? Higher than you might think:

Bar-headed Geese are known to cross the Himalayas at 29,500 feet. The world record holder is a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture seen at 37,000 feet. A Mallard, which struck an airplane at 21,000 feet, holds the record for the highest documented flight altitude for a bird in North America.

Even our humble little songbirds fly as high as 6,000 feet, although the majority of them migrate at 500 to 2,000 feet. This according to the Smithsonian National Zoo website, which has some really cool facts of bird migration.

Our earth is a stupendous place.