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Big Birds: 25 to 39 inches
Some egrets and herons, hawks, eagles, falcons, spoonbills, geese, loons.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the amazing world of big size birds. We’ll explore their unique physical characteristics, habitats, and behaviors, and discover the incredible ways these birds have adapted to their environment.
So, whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just curious about the amazing creatures that share our world, get ready to be blown away by the incredible world of big size birds. Join us on this incredible journey into the skies and beyond, as we explore the kings and queens of the avian world!
On this page
- Ducks, Geese and Swans – Family Anatidae
- Loons – Family Gaviidae
- Herons, Egrets and Bitterns – Family Ardeidae
- Ibis, Spoonbills – Family Threskiornithidae
- Hawks, Kites, Eagles – Family Accipitridae
- Gulls, Terns and Skimmers – Family Laridae
- Owls – Family Strigidae
Ducks, Geese and Swans – Family Anatidae
Ducks, geese, and swans make up the Antidae family and are adapted for swimming, floating, and diving in shallow waters. With 174 species in 43 genera, these waterbirds reside on all continents except Antarctica and are often herbivorous, monogamous breeders, and undertake annual migrations. Some are domesticated for agriculture, while others are hunted for food and recreation.
- Average size: 25-33 inches (63-83 cm)
- Average weight: 4.5-9.9 pounds (2-4.5 kg)
The Snow Goose is a fascinating species of waterfowl that inhabits the Arctic regions of North America during the breeding season and migrates mostly to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas for winter. There are two color morphs of the Snow Goose – the white morph, which has white plumage with black wingtips, and the blue morph, which has a dark bluish-gray plumage with a white neck, head, and tail tip.
Search for open fields and bodies of water if you want to spot Snow Geese both during the migration or in their wintering grounds across North America. These birds are hard to miss as they usually travel in large flocks, accompanied by a loud honking sound, either on the ground or in the air.
- Average size: 30-43 inches (75-110 cm)
- Average weight: 5-19 pounds (2-8 kg)
Canada Geese are a common sight in North America, inhabiting open and grassy habitats from Canada down to the southern United States, and even suburban and urban areas. There are 11 subspecies of Canada Geese, with size decreasing as you move northward and coloration becoming darker as you move westward.
These large birds are bigger than Snow Geese and easily recognizable by their long black neck and distinctive white cheek patch. Their bodies are brown with a paler chest and white underside, while their feet and legs are black.
You can easily spot them resting on the shore, swimming in open water, grazing on fields, or flying in a V-formation in the skies.
Loons – Family Gaviidae
Loons are large, aquatic birds with a striking black and white plumage, and they are known for their haunting calls that echo across the lakes and rivers they inhabit. They are excellent divers, able to stay underwater for several minutes as they hunt for fish.
- Average size: 26-36 inches (66-91 cm)
- Average weight: 4.9-16.8 pounds (2.2-7.6 kg)
Common Loons breed in the peaceful and secluded freshwater lakes situated in the northern regions of the United States and Canada. During winter and migration periods, these birds can be found near lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastlines.
The breeding adults exhibit a stunning regal pattern in black and white, while during the nonbreeding season, their coloration is plain gray above and white below. During the night, Common Loon pairs and groups communicate through their distinctive eerie and beautiful calls.
These birds are adept at diving and catching fish without making a splash. They are less buoyant than most birds, and they can rapidly expel air from their lungs and flatten their feathers to swim and dive swiftly. Once submerged, the loon’s heart rate lowers to conserve oxygen.
Herons, Egrets and Bitterns – Family Ardeidae
Herons, egrets and bitterns are wading birds with long legs and sharp bills, found near water bodies such as lakes, rivers and marshes. They are known for their elegant movements and unique hunting techniques, which often involve standing still for long periods of time before striking their prey with lightning-fast reflexes.
- Average size: 31-41 inches (80-104 cm)
- Average weight: 1.5-3.3 pounds (0.7-1.5 kg)
The Great Egret is a highly successful species dwelling in various temperate and tropical habitats across the world. In North America, they’re most common in the Sun Belt of the United States and in Central and South America. These birds thrive near any form of water and are usually in wooded swamps and wetlands.
Great Egrets are known for their distinctive all-white plumage, with their tall, long legs, long S-curved necks, and dagger-like bills. They’re excellent hunters, using a deadly jab with their bills to capture fish while standing immobile or slowly and carefully wading through wetlands.
Ibis, Spoonbills – Family Threskiornithidae
Ibis and spoonbills are unique birds with long, curved bills that they use to probe for food in shallow water. They are found in wetlands and coastal areas around the world, and their distinctive appearance and behaviors make them popular among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
- Average size: 28-34 inches (71-86 cm)
- Average weight: 2.6-4 pounds (1.2-1.8 kg)
Roseate Spoonbills inhabit marshy areas, particularly mangrove swamps and mudflats from southern Georgia and Florida south through Central and South America. Their wings and underparts are light rose, their wing and tail coverts are deep carmine, and their upper neck and back are white. The pink and red pigments come from the food they eat.
These birds use their unique spoon-like bill to scoop up a variety of things from shallow water. They swish their bill back and forth in the water to collect minnows, small crustaceans, bits of plants, and insects. Roseate Spoonbills typically forage in shallow, muddy water, and make a low, guttural sound while feeding. If they are not foraging, they may be roosting noisily in trees near mangroves, cypress, or willows.
Hawks, Kites, Eagles – Family Accipitridae
Hawks, kites and eagles are birds of prey known for their sharp talons and hooked beaks, which they use to hunt and kill their prey. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica and their impressive size and agility make them a popular subject for birdwatchers and nature photographers.
- Average size: 26-40 inches (66-102 cm)
- Average weight: 6.6-13 pounds (3-6 kg)
The Golden Eagle is a large and solitary bird of prey dwelling in open and semi-open terrain, most commonly in mountainous areas in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most widely distributed species of eagle and can be recognized by its dark brown plumage with lighter golden-brown feathers on its nape.
As North America’s largest predatory bird, golden eagles use their impressive speed and agility, as well as their powerful feet and sharp talons, to hunt a variety of prey, including hares, rabbits, and marmots. They maintain large home ranges or territories, which can be up to 77 square miles in size, and often mate for life.
For centuries, the golden eagle has been highly regarded in falconry and is revered in some ancient cultures for its hunting abilities.
- Average size: 28-40 inches (70-102 cm)
- Average weight: 6.6-13.9 pounds (3-6.3 kg)
Bald Eagles, the national bird of the United States, can be found near large bodies of water throughout North America and tend to avoid human presence. They undergo four distinct stages of maturation, each taking one year. You can recognize an adult Bald Eagle for their large size, yellow eyes and bills, white heads and tails, and dark brown bodies, which may appear black.
These raptors are opportunistic predators, sometimes scavenging and stealing food, sometimes hunting themselves. They often hunt by watching from high perches, then swooping down to catch their prey in their talons. Additionally, they can hunt by flying low, taking their prey by surprise.
Bald eagles are among the longest-lived birds, with a recorded age of 38 years.
- Average size: 18-26 inches (45-65 cm)
- Average weight: 1.5-3.5 pounds (0.7-1.6 kg)
The Red-tailed Hawk, a bird of prey native to the Nearctic region, resides in a wide range of habitats and altitudes but typically prefer open areas with scattered elevated perches. They come in 14 sub-species that vary from light auburn to deep brown which include dark, light, and rufous morphs. Although both sexes appear alike, females are 25% larger than males.
These hawks mostly hunt by perching on high points and then swooping down to capture prey in their talons. Interestingly, the shrill cry used as a default sound effect for hawks and eagles in movies is often that of a red-tailed hawk, regardless of the species shown on screen.
Gulls, Terns and Skimmers – Family Laridae
Gulls, terns and skimmers are seabirds that live near water bodies and coastal areas. They are known for their distinctive cries and impressive aerial acrobatics, and are a common sight at beaches and harbors around the world.
- Average size: 22-26 inches (56-66 cm)
- Average weight: 2.3-3.6 pounds (0.6-1.6 kg)
Herring Gulls, most often referred to as just seagulls, inhabit both North American coasts, although most commonly on the East Coast. While they reside year-round in the lower Great Lakes area, they primarily breed in the north and migrate to the south during winter. They generally stick to coastal areas and choose it on the availability of nearby food sources, shelter from wind and the elements, and distance from predators.
The sexes look similar, with light-gray backs, black wingtips, and white heads and underparts. They scavenge along shorelines and around boats and have a unique ability to drink seawater thanks to special glands over their eyes. If you want to find one, search around large bodies of water.
Great Black-backed Gull
- Average size: 25-31 inches (64-79 cm)
- Average weight: 1.7-5 pounds (0.75-2.3 kg)
The Great Black-backed Gull, the largest member of the gull family, is mainly found on the Atlantic Coast and occasionally inland around the Great Lakes. Adults have a white head, neck, and underparts, dark grey wings and back, pink legs, and yellow bills.
They are aggressive hunters, pirates, and scavengers, known for breaking open hard-shelled mollusks and eggs by dropping them on rocks. Great Black-backed Gulls are commonly visit beaches or fishing piers, and also scavenge on refuse around fishing boats, docks, and garbage dumps.
Owls – Family Strigidae
Owls are nocturnal birds of prey with large eyes and distinctive calls. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica and are known for their silent flight and impressive hunting abilities.
Great Gray Owl
- Average size: 24-33 inches (61-84 cm)
- Average weight: 1.3-4.2 pounds (0.58-1.9 kg)
The Great Gray Owl is the world’s largest owl by length and is also known as the Phantom of the North. These owls range throughout Alaska, Canada, the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountain States, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin. They prefer to inhabit coniferous forests in Canada and montane coniferous forests in the western States, usually pine and fir forests. In winter, they may inhabit other areas like fields, woodland edges, or tidal meadows.
The adult has a large, rounded head with a gray face, yellow eyes with dark circles, light underparts with dark streaks, and gray upperparts with pale bars. They primarily feed on small rodents such as voles and pocket gophers.
While hunting, they perch on a tree overlooking an open area and use their excellent hearing to locate prey.
In winter, they silently glide and plunge into the snow to grab the prey with their sharp talons.