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The latest from Dr. Bird


Did you know that Lucky Diamond Rich holds the Guinness world record for having the most tattoos, essentially covering 100 percent of his body?

That Suresh Joachim Arulanantham ironed clothes for 55 hours and 5 minutes at Shopper’s World in Brampton, Ontario to set a Guinness world record?

Well, what about records in the world of birds? Which species is the biggest or the fastest? Based on extensive research for my 2004 book, The Bird Almanac: A Guide to Essential Facts and Figures of the World’s Birds, here are some records that might one day help you win a trivia contest or simply amaze your loved friends around the holiday table.


The heaviest and tallest bird is the ostrich standing at 2.7 m (9 ft) and weighing in at 156 kg (345 lb).

The heaviest flying bird is the great bustard which manages to lift off with a weight of 21 kg (46.3 lb)!

While the tallest bird is obviously the ostrich, the tallest flying bird is the sarus crane at 1.8 m (6 ft). The wandering albatross boasts the great wingspan at 3.63 m (11 ft 11 in), but if one just includes land-loving birds, the Andean condor and marabou stork are tied at 3.2 m (10.5 ft). The ostrich wins again with the longest legs, but relative to body length, the black-winged stilt gets the nod at 23 cm (9 in) or 60 percent of its height. The absolute shortest legs in the bird world belong to the swifts, being virtually non-existent! And the smallest bird in the world? Why, the bee hummingbird at 5.7 cm (2.24 in) in length and 1.6 g (0.056 oz) in weight. The hummingbirds also hold the record for the longest bill relative to body length – the sword-tailed hummingbird at 10.5 cm (4.13 in). The absolute shortest beak, being just a few mms., is found on the glossy swiftlet, while the absolute longest beak goes to the Australian pelican at 47 cm (18.5 in). Someone actually took the time to count all 25,216 feathers on a whistling swan, the most of any bird. That probably wasn’t as difficult as counting the 940 feathers on a ruby-throated hummingbird, the least of any bird to date.


Well, the fastest-moving bird is a stooping peregrine falcon at 320 km/h (200 mph). We know this because a falconer actually jumped out of a light aircraft (with a parachute, of course!) with his trained peregrine and recorded its diving speed. The fastest flapping flight is seen in the white-throated needle-tailed swift at 170 km/h (106 mph), but that includes diving. Someone clocked a red-breasted merganser motoring alongside their vehicle at level flight doing a respectable 161 km/h (100 mph). And there is a record for the slowest flying bird --- the American woodcock at 8 km/h (5 mph). The fastest wingbeat surely has to be held by the hummingbirds, i.e. the amethyst woodstar and horned sungem tied at 90 times a second! Contrast that to the vultures beating their wings only once a second.

I’ve got another hundred records compiled for the bird world, but they will have to wait for another column.

Meanwhile, if you have got a bet to settle, call on me……I don’t charge much!

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