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Hats off to World Champion Flyers

You have certainly come across the gallant stories of Amelia Earhart. She flew across the Atlantic and Pacific solo in the 30s; a tremendous success at the time earning her a spot at the table of aviation pioneers alongside Capt. James Gallagher, the first to fly nonstop around the world.

Of course we cannot forget the Wright brothers. Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful flight in their aircraft, christened Wright Flyer, in 1903, travelling 120 feet at a speed of 10.9 km/h.

Like the above personalities, and many others who have achieved enviable flight stature, there are a number of birds that can be crowned as champion flyers.

These are birds that have documented incredible flight abilities.

1. Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

This Alaska wader has registered long non-stop flights. Measuring 190-400 gms and measuring 70-80 cm in length (bill-to-tail), the godwit has also recorded longest trips by any bird on earth.
In a study conducted in 2007 by the U.S. Geological Survey and PRBO Conservation Science, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to bird research, a female godwit flew 10,200 kilometers from New Zealand to a wetland on the North Korea – China border, and after feeding and resting, furthered 5,000 kilometers to reach Alaska.
The bird made a 11,500 kilometer return journey to New Zealand uninterrupted.
The satellite data showed that she made an average of 56Km/h. It was equivalent of a human running at 70km/h for more then seven days.

2. Common Swift

Common Swift

These medium-sized birds, superficially similar to the barn swallow or house martin but somewhat larger, have the ability to stay in the air for 10 months straight.
A common swift measures about 17 cm long, with a short forked tail and very long wings about 38 cm long.
These super aeronauts, even as they migrate annually to Africa from their European roost, never voluntarily set their feet on the ground. They do everything on air during their migration, including feeding, mating and getting nesting materials. If they have to land, it will be on branches, houses or nest boxes.
On the other hand, the Alpine Swift spends most of its life airborne, averaging 200 consecutive days a year!

3. Grey Headed Albatross

Grey Headed Albatross

Also known as the grey-headed mollymawk, this large seabird has made it to Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s fastest horizontal flier.
In a 2004 report the British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environmental Research Council, the albatross peaked 127Km/h for more than 8 hours during a storm at the Antarctica!
The grey-headed albatross, named for its ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck, averages 81cm in length and weighs up to 4.4 kgs. It has large wings spanning 2.2 metres long.
Still, birds like Peregrine Falcon have achieved 390km/h in flight speed dives. The incredible speeds are realized due to gravity assistance.
The White-throated Needletail and Golden Eagle are also fast birds with incredible speeds of 169km/h and 128km/hr respectively.

4. Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

These are, by far, the longest migrating species known in the animal kingdom.
The mainly grey and white plumaged medium sized birds, with red-orangish beak and feet, have recorded annual round-trip lengths of 70,900 km for those nesting in Iceland and Greenland, while those that nest in the Netherlands have recorded 90,000 km.
Initially identified as Sea Swallow, the tern has a length of 28-39 cm ad 65-75 cm wingspan.

5. The Rüppell's Griffon Vulture

The Rüppell's Griffon Vulture

They are the highest-flying birds ever recorded. This large vulture, weighing up to 9 kg, can reach heights of 37,000 feet above sea level.
Residing in Central Africa, Rüppell's Griffon Vulture is 103 cm in length and has a wingspan of 2.6 metres.

6. Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

A tiny bird, this hummingbird weighs 2-6 grams and measures 7-9 cm in length.
Hummingbirds are quite flight delights, what with their frequently acrobatic dashing and darting.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is particularly interesting due to its fast wing beats, averaging 55 wing beats per second.
The male has been recorded having a 200 wing beat per second during mating season, such a spectacular feat indeed!