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12 Largest Birds of North America (with Pictures)

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osprey bird perched on post

Birds inhabit all parts of the world, including Antarctica. Many of them migrate at some point throughout the year, but those migrating birds seem to think of just one part of the world as their home. If they migrate, they are migrating away from home. But when the weather is ready and the food is abundant, migrating birds will always go back to their “home” locations.

They do not perpetually move to new locations as time goes on. So, when we talk about birds of North America, we are talking about those that think of the area as home and that will always go back to that area even if they migrate elsewhere for a length of time. Here are 15 of the largest birds that call North America home.

binoculars 3 dividerTop 12 Largest Birds in North America:

1. Great Horned Owl

great horned owl yellow eyes

Image Credit: HMaria, Pixabay

The tufts of feathers that protrude from the Great Horned Owl’s head make them look like a cat from afar. Their wingspans can reach up to 4.5 feet when fully expanded. These animals tend to make most of North America their home and can be found in forests, public parks, and even cities. They tend to prey on animals such as squirrels and raccoons at night.


2. Snowy Owl

angry snowy owl

Image Credit: Lilly3012, Pixabay

These gorgeous birds have snow-white feathers with black markings. Their wingspans can reach as long as 5 feet when fully stretched, and they can weigh up to 6 pounds as adults. Snowy Owls are fond of lemmings at mealtime and are known to eat up to five of them every day. They are not too picky, though, and will eat rodents, fish, and even other birds to supplement their diet.


3. Great Gray Owl

Great grey owl

Image Credit: Pixabay

Measuring almost 3 feet in length, these owls are among the biggest in size compared to other owl types that inhabit North America. These birds prefer spending their time in dense forests, where they can easily seek out prey such as gophers, squirrels, and any other small mammals that happen to be lurking around.


4. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Image Credit: iankelsall1, Pixabay

This is thought to be the largest hawk species living in North America today. While these birds only weigh about 5 pounds when fully grown, their wingspans can be as long as 5 feet. They are extremely fast air divers and can catch prey such as snakes and rabbits with ease. They prefer to live in places like valleys, plains, and lowlands. They have even been known to inhabit desert areas throughout North America.


5. California Condor

california condor

Image Credit: Barbara Ash, Shutterstock

The impressive California Condor has a whopping 9-foot wingspan when fully grown. These birds are typically found in states like California, Utah, and Arizona. Their featherless heads offer clues as to their age. Once they reach 5 or 6 years of age, their heads tend to take on a pink or orange hue. Until then, their heads are usually white or tan.


6. Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture bird

Image Credit: David Osborn, Shutterstock

Also referred to as buzzards, Turkey Vultures are a mainstay in North America, and most people living there have seen at least one at some time or another. They are not shy birds and will circle above any areas where food is available. Their long 6-foot wingspans make it possible for them to hover over wind currents while seeking out carrion, which is their main food source.


7. Osprey

Osprey Hawk with the catch of the day

Image Credit: 61098, Pixabay

The Osprey prefers to fish for their food most of the time. They enjoy a wide variety of fish species as part of their everyday diet. These birds have 6-foot wingspans and fast flight, which makes them exciting to watch while they engage in their fishing activities. Ospreys are typically found living near ponds, lakes, and ocean coasts throughout North America and beyond.


8. Wandering Albatross

Wandering albatross flying

Image Credit: MZPHOTO.CZ, Shutterstock

These are among the largest birds in the world, let alone North America. They boast a massive 11-foot wingspan and can fly hundreds of miles every day. Wandering Albatrosses have amazingly silk-like white feathers with black markings on their wings. They typically spend their time at sea and come back to land to reproduce. Unfortunately, these animals are currently threatened by fishermen and pollution.


9. Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter swan

Image Credit: Pixabay

This is the largest native waterfowl species found living in North America today. Their wingspans can reach up to 6.5 feet and can be as long as 5 feet as adults. These birds can weigh a whopping 30 pounds, even though they can fly long distances for migration purposes. Their black beaks and facial markings are in stark contrast to their bright white bodies.


10. American White Pelican

american white pelican

Image Credit: Piqsels

This is one huge bird that has a wingspan of up to 12 feet, although most have wingspans of about 9 feet in length. These birds like to spend their winter months around the coastal regions of California and Florida. During other times of the year, they can be found reproducing in places like Manitoba and Minnesota.


11. Bald Eagle

3 bald eagles on tree branch

Image Credit: MICHOFF, Pixabay

As the official bird of the United States, the bald eagle does not disappoint. They weigh about 13 pounds and display an impressive wingspan of nearly 8 feet. They live everywhere throughout the United States and feed on prey such as carrion, fish, and rats. They are known for building huge nests to nurture their young ones in.


12. Golden Eagle

The golden eagle staring

Image Credit: papilio4, Pixabay

Golden Eagles are the heaviest eagles in existence throughout North America, although their wingspan is a bit smaller than that of the Bald Eagle’s, at just 7.5 feet in length. They can fly at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, but this typically only occurs when prey is at stake. They love to eat a variety of other animals, including rabbits, squirrels, marmots, and even cats.

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Final Thoughts

North America is home to many large bird species, all of which deserve attention and concern. Understanding these birds is an excellent start to figuring out how to keep them protected in the wild. If we do not take the time to understand these birds, we may become part of the problem that threatens these birds as time goes on.


Featured Image Credit: John L. Absher, Shutterstock

About the Author Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Since 2000, Rachael has been a freelance writer, and has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens, so it's no surprise that animals happen to be her favorite topic to write about!

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