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9 birds that set records for their amazing flights

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 5, 2014, 11:24 a.m.
ruppells griffon vulture

Photo: Bogha-frois MG690302/Shutterstock

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Highest flier: Ruppell's griffon vulture

The endangered Ruppell's griffon vulture is the highest flying bird ever recorded, and it can ascend to heights of 37,000 feet. That's the average height at which a commercial airplane travels (and a Ruppell's griffon vulture has indeed been sucked into a jet engine at 37,000 feet). It is also the height at which a human would pass out from lack of oxygen. The vulture doesn't face this problem because it has developed a particular type of hemoglobin, making their use of oxygen more effective. A close competitor is the bar-headed goose, a species that migrates over the Himalayan mountains at heights of 18,000-21,120 feet. It's been reported they've even been seen flying over Mount Makalu, the fifth highest mountain on earth at 27,825 feet.