what bird can carry a human

Could birds pick you up and fly with you? Well, birds come in all sizes, and some have stronger wings than others. The harpy eagle can carry 20 pounds, so you’d need only 3 eagles. Do the math to find out how many pet birds you’ll need!

Wee ones: If 8 hawks pick you up, what numbers would you say to count them?

Little kids: If 3 harpy eagles pick you up and fly you around, how many wings do they have as a group? Bonus: How many more legs than wings in the group? (Don’t forget to count yourself!)

Big kids: If an eagle can lift 20 pounds, at least how many eagles does it take to pick you up? (It doesn’t need to work out exactly — just make sure they can carry you!) Bonus: How many little sparrows could pick you up if each sparrow can carry 1 ounce? (Reminder: A pound has 16 ounces.)

The sky’s the limit — literally: If it takes either 20 geese to pick you up or 30 ducks, how many geese does it take to pick up a person that 120 ducks can lift?

Little kids: 6 wings. Bonus: 2 more legs than wings. You can either subtract 6 from 8, or just remember that you add 2 legs but no wings to the group.

Big kids: Different for everyone…find the closest multiple of 20 just above your weight in pounds, then divide by 20. Bonus: Also different for you all…take your weight in pounds and multiply by 16, which gives you the total ounces and also the total number of sparrows.

The sky’s the limit: 80 geese. Every 30 ducks match 20 geese, and 120 ducks have 4 of those sets of 30. So you need 4 sets of 20 geese, or 80 geese.

7 Answers 7 Sorted by:

I decided to try to extrapolate from some known data. I used various sources to find that:

  • At 6 to 9 kg, the Harpy Eagle can lift a 3-toed sloth. 5 to 4. 5 kg.
  • A Peregrine Falcon of 0. 3 to 1. 0 kg can lift a feral Pigeon of 0. 25 to 0. 4 kg.
  • An adult human weighs between 60 and 100 kg on average.
  • At 70 to 72 kg, Argetavis magnificens was the largest bird ever recorded.
  • Quetzalcoatlus was the largest known object to fly, with estimates ranging from 70 to 250 kg.

“About half its own weight,” according to data on harpy eagles and peregrine falcons, seems to be the answer to the question, “How much can a bird lift?” “Although my sample size is extremely small, it seems appropriate for a preliminary estimate.

However, we also have to understand that the carrying capacity of an animal follows a rule of diminishing marginal returns. A 5 mg ant can hoist a 500 mg leaf (10,000%), while a 5000 kg elephant might be able to carry 500 kg of logs (10%). The larger animal can carry more, but at a significantly reduced ratio. Our ever larger birds might be reduced to 30-40% or less.

Thus, we need at least a 200 kg bird in order to lift a husky human. It appears that birds’ known size range is far smaller than that. Even a thin human is nearly as heavy as its hypothetical feathered mount. Sorry.

In the meanwhile, we might actually have a chance if we extend to pterosaurs and their kind. It is becoming my go-to example. I would adore riding a Quetzalcoatlus, assuming the higher-end estimates for its mass and a generous allowance for its lifting capacity. (Do I really need to say this again? More Quetzalcoatlus in modern literature is needed. ).

Update: Since posting this a month ago, we now have this. I am tempted to recant my entire answer in favor of Mr. Munroes.

Yes. Let the explain itself.

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Popular Science magazine reported in 1920 that an ostrich rider could carry up to 150 pounds, which is reasonable for a light human or a hobbit. This information came from an ostrich rider tourist attraction in Florida.

If you are over 150 pounds, you might want to consider being pulled by the ostrich to work.

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No bird in current times can fly with a human on its back. Pelagornis or Argentavis (both extinct) might have been able to fly with a human on their backs. However they too, would need to come in flying at maximum speed, pick up a human in their talons and then continue with a lot of initial effort. The shock alone would be enough to break a few ribs or cause excessive internal shock damage which would have severe short and long term consequences.

Argentavis size comparison with an average human.

Pelagornis size comparison with an average human.

Forgoing birds, a couple of pterosaurs might have been able to pick up a human more easily than the birds mentioned above. The two candidates which come to mind are Quetzelcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.

Quetzelcoatlus size comparison with an average human.

To put it simply, a bird would need to be the same size as a dual hang-glider. Both a hang glider’s and a bird’s wing are essentially solving the same issues and doing so with nearly equal efficiency. If the size of the bird’s body is comparable to that of a human, then the bird would need to have wings the size of a dual hang glider in order to carry a human. It’s possible that some extinct birds or pterosaurs (see other answers) were roughly the correct size.

The problem then is bone stresses. Flying endoskeletal things tend to have radically-lightened bone structures. It is highly unlikely that the wing bones could support the additional weight.

Sadly, it’s probably not a good idea to sit on a giant eagle’s back for any of the fantasy movies or television shows like LotR, Avatar, or any other that feature people riding them. When your center of balance crosses the center of your wings, you become unsteady and both fall out of the sky. Even though it doesn’t look as cool, a hang-glider-style harness underneath the bird’s body is far more useful.

Im not sure about carrying something on its back. The majority of birds’ light bone structure would seem to work against them as a beast of burden.

Instead Ill try answering as if the bird is carrying the person (directly or in somewhat less terrifying accommodations). A bird of prey can carry half its body weight, as a rough estimate. This sounds promising, but a condor, one of the largest birds by wingspan, weighs in at around 30 pounds. If we scale this up (not how biology actually works…) so that our bird can carry a 200 pound package, we get a bird with an approximately a 130 foot wingspan. That is a very large bird.

Just wanted to address something someone brought up:

Because of their thin walls, people often believe that the skeletons of pterosaurs were incredibly light. This misconception ignores the bones’ overall volume, which is actually fairly large. Regarding birds, the same pattern (and related misconception) holds true: despite the fact that many species have extremely hollow bones with air sacs inside (which connect to the respiratory tract), a bird’s skeleton weighs the same as a mammal’s of equivalent total weight. Without putting on more weight, the thin bone walls in pterosaurs and birds work to strengthen their skeletons.

I’m not sure how large a flying object needs to be in order to support the OP, but I don’t think a gigantic eagle would be a practical mode of transportation.

If you ride in the back, the wind will be uncomfortable and will probably blow bugs in your face, and you risk being blown off if it moves quickly enough. The eagle could carry you in its claws, but if it pierces you with its talons instead of wrapping them around you, you might bleed to death. A man who is still living says that when he was a child, a gigantic thunderbird attempted to pick him up and fly away with him. He says he was scared at the time.

And you still get the uncomfortable wind. And you might be in position to be pooped on.

You still have to figure out how to steer and control your presumably not supernaturally guided bird even if you have a saddle, harness, or even an enclosed cabin like the pterodactyl airliners in The Flintstones.

Thus, I don’t think a ride featuring a giant eagle would be fun.

Large children: Differ for each person… find the nearest multiple of 20 that is slightly higher than your weight in pounds, then divide by 20. Bonus: Also unique for each of you: multiply your weight in pounds by 16 to find the total number of ounces and sparrows.

The sky’s the limit: 80 geese. Each 30 ducks matches 20 geese, and there are 4 sets of 30 ducks out of 120 ducks. Thus, you’ll need 80 geese, or 4 sets of 20 geese.

Little kids: 6 wings. Bonus: 2 more legs than wings. Either deduct 6 from 8, or simply keep in mind that the group gains 2 legs but no wings.

Little ones: How many hawks would you say to count if eight of them picked you up?

Young children: How many wings do three harpy eagles collectively have? Bonus: How many more legs do the three eagles have than wings? (Don’t forget to count yourself!)

FAQ

Could an eagle carry a human?

Which means, in theory, a Harpy Eagle could lift and carry away a human child up to about 5 years old. A Stellar’s Sea Eagle could manage the same with some 1 year olds, and Golden and Bald Eagles could manage a newborn baby.

Has a bird ever picked up a child?

Eagles have tried to carry off children before, though it was much more of a problem 100 years ago. One eagle tried to carry off a Scottish baby, and another a child in Maine. In Milwaukee, an eagle snatched a two-month-old child from its cradle and flew back to its nest.

Can a bird carry a human baby?

While it’s definitely possible for an eagle or owl to attack small dogs, it’s nearly impossible for a bird in North America to target and carry off a small child.