10 Birds That Fly Very Low (Interesting Facts To Note)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

What distinguishes a bird from anything else? When you think of a bird, one of the first things you typically envision is something with wings and the ability to fly.

However, not all birds have the ability to fly. And of course, not all birds can fly very high or as fast as others.

Here are a few bird species that prefer to fly at low altitudes (close to the ground). Some people call them flightless birds because of their lack of ability to fly. 

1. Passeriformes (Passerines) Birds

Birds That Fly Very Low

Passeriformes, which includes all of the birds used in this description, is also known as the passerine order.

There are several enormous flightless birds in this genus.

Despite their huge size and robustness, there are still some with small bodies, short wings, and short legs, making them appear featherless.

Bluebirds, which are among the world’s largest flying birds, are the largest of the species. Hummingbirds are the tiniest of the bird species.

2. Nuthatches

Nuthatches are a species of low-flying bird.

Although their bodies are short and their feet are wide, their huge feet enable them to walk on the ground despite their small size.

There are a lot of different colors and patterns on the nuthatches.

Nectar feeders are the name given to these avians. Flowers create nectar after being pollinated by birds, which then carries it to the bees.

As a result, the birds’ beaks will catch a little of the nectar and drop it on the branches or into their mouths for later consumption.

The nectar is what the plant’s blossoms use to make more nectar. Most birds consume the nectar of at least one plant.

3. Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are small, swooping birds. They have brownish-grey bodies and white heads.

The birds have black feathers covering their heads. The males only perform the woodpeckers’ songs.  

Related: Here is an article I wrote on birds that travel long distances

Other Flightless Birds

Although penguins, rhea and emus are well-known flightless birds, there are a number of other species as well. Here are some of the unique species still seen today.

Birds that 

4. Ostriches

A native of Africa’s deserts and savannas, the ostrich is the largest bird on the planet but cannot fly.

On the other hand, the ostrich is an impressive runner, both in terms of speed and endurance.

The bird has a maximum sprint speed of 43 mph and a maximum long-distance running speed of 31 mph.

Ostriches can run up to 16 feet in a single bound and utilize their wings like rudders to steer while running.

Their strong two-clawed feet are lethal weapons in and of themselves. Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand as often believed to avoid being detected by predators.

They instead lower their heads flat on the ground.

5. Emus

Emus and ostriches both belong to the ratite family of flightless birds. Emus, the world’s second-largest bird, is also flightless but confined to the land.

Despite their lack of flight, these birds have muscular legs that allow them to run at speeds of up to 30 mph.

They can cover distances of up to nine feet in a single stride.

These birds have feathers that resemble shaggy fur rather than actual feathers, and their wingspan is only 7 inches.

These birds are indigenous to Australia. They are protected because of their propensity to gorge themselves on farm produce in enormous quantities.

6. Penguins

Aside from members of the ratite family, penguins are other flightless birds.

There are seventeen different species worldwide, most of which seem the same save for slight differences in size and head and neck decorations.

The emperor penguin, at the height of just over 3 feet, dwarfs the little blue penguin, which grows to only a foot in height.

On land, penguins are clumsy, but they’re masters of the flippers and rudders they use on their feet in the water.

They can be found in different locations worldwide, from the poles to the subarctic areas to Australia and New Zealand.  

Also check out this article I wrote on birds that uses birdhouses

7. Kiwis

Another well-known flightless bird is the kiwi, which has five distinct kinds.

These birds are indigenous to New Zealand, an island country with a disproportionate number of flightless birds.

The kiwi bird is New Zealand’s national bird. This bird has long beaks for catching insects but no wings, so it can’t fly.

They’re also well-known for their peculiar odor, which is sometimes likened to that of mushrooms, and their comparatively enormous eggs, which can occupy up to 20% of a laying mother’s total body mass when they’re laid.

8. Weka

This is another flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand.

Native New Zealanders and European immigrants relied on this brown, chicken-sized bird for food, but the species are currently declining.

Weka has a loud call that they sing as a duet, despite their ordinary appearance.

They’re also called cunning burglars because they’re known to take food and other tiny items that suit their tastes before making off with them.

In addition to being a good diver, weka is an excellent swimmer.

9. Steamer Duck

In the steamer duck family, three of the four species are non-flying, but the other two should not be messed with either.

Even among the flying species, some males are simply too heavy to fly.

These ducks from South America got their name from thrashing their wings across the water like the wheels on a steamboat.

They also bash each other with them in different ways.

Steamer ducks, noted for their viciousness and ferocity, have been known to engage in violent territorial fights with one another. 

10. Kakapo

New Zealand is also home to the kakapo, or “owl parrot.” This nocturnal parrot has the face of an owl, the posture of a penguin, and the walk of a duck.

It’s a bizarre bird, but it’s also quite lovely, with its vibrant green-brown plumage. It’s the largest and heaviest parrot globally, with a wingspan of up to 2 feet.

Males emit a loud booming call like a one-bird jug band and can be heard up to a half-mile away!

What Is the Reason for Birds’ Low Altitude Flight?

“Windsurfing” is a technique used by birds to keep their altitude close to the ground.

Basically, windsurfing is using the wind to propel you ahead while you’re engaged in another activity.

Because they can stay in the air longer if they travel faster than the wind, birds use their wings to soar and settle on large trees and other items in the garden.

As a result, they’ll have more time to eat in the morning. Also, since more air resistance is encountered as an object grows in size, it will have to feed for longer periods.


Some birds fly very low and very high, and some don’t fly at all.

Keeping in mind that birds use their energy to fly, people must recognize that a large bird could become a major issue. 

Furthermore, the lowest flying bird is the nuthatches.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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