Birds with large feathers are a fascinating group. From the majestic wandering albatross with its impressive wingspan to the graceful swan with its elegant plumage, these birds captivate us with their remarkable physical attributes. Whether for flight, display, or insulation, all of these large feathers serve a purpose. Let’s take a closer look at 9 birds with the largest feathers.
9 Birds with the largest feathers
There are plenty of birds in the world with large feathers, including the Indian peafowl, the wandering albatross, the common ostrich, the emu, the bald eagle, the ribbon-tailed astrapia, the trumpeter swan, the greater bird of paradise, and the Reeves’s pheasant.
1. Indian Peafowl
Scientific Name: Pavo cristatus
When you think of a bird with large feathers, the first thing that may come to mind is the peacock. The most recognizable peacock is the Indian peacock. While these birds are native to Sri Lanka and India, they have been introduced to many other areas of the world.
The male peacock’s tail feathers, or “train,” can span up to 6 feet in length. The feathers are long, elaborate, and adorned with iridescent colors and striking eye-like spots. The males use these beautiful feathers to court and attract a mate.
2. Wandering Albatross
Scientific name: Diomedea exulans
The wandering albatross is a seabird known for its impressive size. It has the largest wingspan of any living bird, spanning up to 11 feet from tip to tip. The sheer enormity of its wings allows the wandering albatross to effortlessly glide for hours over the open ocean, covering vast distances in search of food.
In addition to its impressive wingspan, the wandering albatross also boasts some of the largest feathers of any bird species, with individual feathers measuring over 11 inches in length. Find them in southern oceans of the subantarctic and antarctic regions such as South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.
3. Common Ostrich
Ostriches are the largest and tallest birds in the world. Though ostriches are flightless, they still have impressive feathers. If you have ever seen Fantasia, you might be able to picture the large, elaborate feathers of the common ostrich.
While that movie is a cartoon, it doesn’t really exaggerate the majesty of this bird’s feathers. Ostriches use the large feathers on their wings to balance when running up to 40 miles per hour. Their feathers also provide insulation and help regulate their body temperature. In addition, males use the large feathers on their wings, spreading them wide to try to attract a female for mating. Their fancy white plumes can be between 15-30 inches long!
Scientific Name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
Another flightless bird with large feathers is the emu. Emus are found in Australia and New Guinea. They are the second largest bird, next to the ostrich. Emus can be up to 6.5 feet tall and weigh up to 99 pounds.
The feathers on their bodies are long, soft, and brown. They look more like hair or fur than most bird feathers, and can be up to 18 inches long. An emu’s tail feathers are stiff. They shake them to make a rattling sound to scare off predators.
5. Bald Eagle
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
The bald eagle is a majestic bird of prey renowned for its impressive size and white head. With a wingspan that can reach up to 7.5 feet, the bald eagle is a large and fierce bird-of-prey that focuses most of its hunting on fish. Its plumage features large, sturdy feathers that can measure up to 12 inches on their tail and 18 inches along their wings. Bald eagles can be found across many areas of the U.S. and Canada, typically near large bodies of water where they hunt, nesting in tall trees nearby.
6. Ribbon-Tailed Astrapia
Scientific Name: Astrapia mayeri
This bird-of-paradise species is native to Papua New Guinea. They can usually be found at elevations ranging from 600 to 8,900 feet above sea level. Ribbon-tailed astrapias are between 12.5 and 13 inches long.
They are on this list because the males have two long white tail feathers that can grow to nearly 40 inches long! In addition to these impressive feathers, the males have iridescent green necks and black crowns. The females have brown bodies with iridescent green heads.
7. Trumpeter Swan
Scientific Name: Cygnus buccinator
The Trumpeter Swan, North America’s largest native waterfowl, commands attention with its impressive size and wingspan. Standing at about 4 feet tall and boasting a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet, this bird is a symbol of grandeur.
With predominantly white plumage, the Trumpeter Swan’s feathers are not only abundant but also large, contributing to its regal appearance. Their primary wing feathers are the largest, and measure about 12-18 inches.
8. Greater Bird-of-Paradise
Scientific Name: Paradisaea apoda
The greater bird-of-paradise is a bird found in New Guinea and surrounding islands. Males are known for their vibrant and elaborate plumage, often considered among the most glamorous in the bird world. Males undergo intricate courtship displays, showcasing their unique appearance to attract mates.
The most distinctive feature of the male greater bird-of-paradise is their tail. Resembling a horse’s tail, long, delicate, fluffy yellow and maroon feathers are topped by twin tail wires. They can shake and fluff these feathers in elaborate displays.
9. Reeves’s Pheasant
Scientific Name: Syrmaticus reevesii
The Reeves’s pheasant made the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest natural tail feathers of any bird. Native to China, these pheasants inhabits dense forests and mountainous regions. Males have a scaly golden plumage with a black and white head, while females are a more camouflaged mottled brown.
The male’s tail feathers can grow to impressive lengths, especially in older birds. These tail feathers grow approximately 12 inches a year, and can reach sizes up to nearly 8 feet!
Mary is an outdoor enthusiast, nature lover, and amateur birdwatcher that enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.