What Is The Highest Flying Bird In The World?

In terms of altitude, there is a bird that puts all others to shame. If Snoop Dogg was a Skrull and could shapeshift into an avian, he still wouldn't even come close. This bird gets so high that most people don't even know it exists; it's literally off their radar. 

That bird is the Ruppell's griffon vulture, according to Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. The Mother Nature Network says this marvel is capable of reaching heights up to 37,000 feet, which is around the cruising altitude of a commercial jet. Unsurprisingly, that particular discovery came at the cost of a vulture actually being sucked into a jet engine at that altitude.

But that doesn't take anything away from this species' amazing ability. Humans would be passing out from lack of oxygen at 37,000 feet, but the vultures have adapted a specific type of hemoglobin allowing them to process oxygen more efficiently. In terms of flight height, its closest competition is thought to be the bar-headed goose, and the highest that species has been measured at is at 27,825 feet over Mt. Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world.

Where does this highest flying bird fly oh so high?

Ruppell's griffon vulture can be found in the Sahel region of Africa, according to Smithsonian, preferring to hang in mountainous areas unless it's searching for food, in which case it will venture over woodlands and grasslands. Using only its eyesight to find food, a Ruppell's griffon's diet consists solely of carrion, which it will swoop down upon before running with wings spread to sink its beak into flesh. If you're not impressed yet, they have no problem climbing inside carcasses to get a better angle, and natural toxins like anthrax, botulism, and cholera are all easily digestible for it.

Despite their long lifespan of 40 to 50 years, this species is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and hunting for trade. The bird can grow to be more than three feet tall with an eight foot wingspan, making a popular trophy for hunters. If Ruppell's griffon vulture wants our advice on how to avoid getting plugged by an eager marksman, it's simple: keep flying high.