What Birds are Able to Hover in Mid-Air?

How many species can you name out of 10, 400 species of bird in the world? Having feathers are birds’ most notable features and the major characteristic that distinguishes them from the other animals. Also, they are warm-blooded vertebrates closely related to reptiles than mammals. They have a four-chambered heart, forelimb modified into wings (a trait shared with bats), a hard-shelled egg, and a keen vision, the primary sense they rely on for information about the environment. However, birds have a less developed sense of smell and limited auditory range. There are some nocturnal species, but most are habitually diurnal. More than 1,000 extinct species have been identified from fossil remains.

According to new research spearheaded by the American Museum of Natural History, there are about 18,000 bird species in the world — nearly twice as many as previously thought. This result emerged after they had focused on the “hidden” avian diversity or birds that look similar to one another, or were thought to interbreed, but are different species. This study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, bringing significant implications for conservation practices.

Countries with the most number of bird species

In a report made by Birdlife International in 2019, countries with the most number of bird species include Columbia ranking first with 1, 878 species, second is Peru with 1, 858 species, third is Brazil with 1, 813 followed by Indonesia with 1 711 species, and Ecuador with 1, 622 species.

Different colors of birds ‘feathers and their different flying skills

Birds have varying feather types, feather colors, and also their capacity to fly or not. Yes, not all birds can hover and enjoy the aerial scenery up there.

The colors of a bird’s feathers also play a significant role in its mate-finding adventures. It also an indicator of its sex. More brightly-colored birds easily find a mate. However, some species use their color to mimic their environment as a form of escapism with predators. In this way, feathers function more like camouflage. For example, the Willow Ptarmigan winter feathers are pure white to blend in with snowy surroundings.

A different case of white birds is albino species. Albinism is a genetic mutation that results in the lack of an enzyme essential to produce melanin or the pigment that gives color to animal. Albinistic birds typically have pink or reddish eyes, flesh-colored bill, legs, and skin.


Ordinary birds and animals, using a combination of various colors, provide themselves which elaborate and highly effective disguise. They have evolved an uncanny likeness to elements of their environment, such as leaves, rocks, grass, and pebbles, to avoid being noticed by predators.

Meanwhile, besides the differences in color, birds too have different sizes and types of feathers affecting their flight. There are flightless birds despite the presence of their feathers. The albatross, with a wingspan reaching 3.5 meters, has the greatest wingspan among flying birds. In the largest flying birds, air cavities (pneumatic skeletons) replace a part of their bone as the maximum size manageable by flying birds is limited by the fact that wing area varies as the square of linear proportions, and weight or volume as the cube.

In the Pleistocene Epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) lived a bird called Teratornisincredibilis. It has similarities with today’s condors but had a larger estimated wingspan of about 5 meters (16.5 feet) and was by far the largest known flying bird.

Hovering mid-air is not for every bird. The bee hummingbird of Cuba 2.5 inches long and weighs less than 3 grams is the smallest living bird. Hummingbirds are famous for their ability to hover. However, hovering is a much rarer concept in larger animals, such as birds of prey.

Birds of prey, on the other hand, typically glide around in circles to maintain altitude while hunting to generate lift. Meanwhile, Kestrels, are the only bird of prey capable of hovering. Unlike smaller hummingbirds, kestrels are unable to beat their wings fast enough to generate enough lift to keep them aloft, so they have to face into the wind and rely on it to provide lift for them. They have perfected this skill of “wind hovering” that their heads stay completely still, a factor that is estimated to increase their hunting efficiency tenfold.

In an average wind speed, the kestrel can glide quickly, with its wings flapping at an almost relaxed pace. Although it seems flying regularly, its forward movement is canceled out by the wind, keeping it in the same position as the wind catches not only on the wings but also on its tail. Its broad tail is spread out a bit more and depressed to increase the surface area exposed to the approaching wind. The effects of the tail depression are more noticeable when the kestrel is preparing to hover.

On the other hand, flightless birds that lose their power of flight had increased their maximum size limit, as can be seen in the ostrich and other ratites such as the emu, cassowary, and rhea. The ostrich is the giant living bird and may stand 2.75 meters tall and weigh 150 kg. Some recently extinct birds were even larger: the largest moas of New Zealand and the elephant birds of Madagascar may have reached over 3 meters (10 feet) in height.

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