Birds generally reach higher altitudes during migration or while hunting. Some birds cross high mountain ranges during their migrations that necessitate high altitude travel. Airline pilots have recorded bird sightings and bird strikes at elevations of 30,000 feet. Birds traveling at these extreme elevations are rare. Most birds operate at elevations less than 500 feet.
Red-tailed hawks soar in open country searching for prey in fields. Rabbits, squirrels, voles and mice are common prey of the red-tailed hawk. Red-tailed hawks nest in tall trees or on the ledges of cliffs. These birds are very common and found throughout North America.
Whooper swans feed on seeds, grasses and underwater vegetation. Found in northern Eurasia, the whooper swan is Finland's national bird. These birds spend most of their lives on the ground except during migration. An entire flock of whooper swans has been observed during migration at 29,000 feet.
Turkey vultures soar while searching for food. These birds generally do not hunt but search for food already dead. Turkey vultures have excellent eyesight as well as a keen sense of smell. Turkey vultures are not nest-making birds, they instead lay eggs on the ground. These birds often circle in thermals to gain elevation instead of wing flapping.
Canada geese live in fields, grassy areas and aquatic environments. Canada geese reach high altitudes while migrating when moving from breeding grounds in northern areas in the summer to southern areas in the winter. These geese are attracted to manicured lawns and eat the grass for food. Thought of as a nuisance, Canada geese are often unwelcome guests on parks, lawns and golf courses. Canada geese are often hunted for their meat throughout North America.
Bald eagles soar above the ground hunting for fish, other birds and small animals. Bald eagles lay their eggs in nests made high in trees. These birds are often seen soaring around lakes and perched on treetops. Bald eagles can reach altitudes of 10,000 feet. Removed from the endangered species list in 2007, bald eagles have seen an increase in population due to conservation efforts.
- How Fast and High Do Birds Fly?; Paul R. Ehlich et al.; 1988
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds; Red-tailed Hawks
- The Turkey Vulture Society: Turkey Vulture Facts
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds; Canada Goose
- American Bald Eagle Information: General Facts about Bald Ealges; 2011
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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