We all birds love to fly at high heights, but the question we all never really thought about is this: “are birds scared of heights?” I know I am! So I went to go and discover the answer to this question through some thorough research. Here’s the simple answer to the question:
Most birds are not scared of heights. However, most birds are scared of heights when they are still fledglings. After they have gained enough confidence through small leaps, they begin to overcome the fear of heights to take their first flight. The duration each bird takes to overcome the fear may vary.
Sounds a little contradictory to have birds who are afraid of heights right? Read to find out more about how fledglings overcome their fear of heights to take their very first flight!
Are Birds Scared of Heights? (Detailed Answer)
Birds are cool in that they are probably the first animals you think of that are actually airborne! Think about it: the only other flying creatures are probably just insects, bats, and gliding mammals. If birds are airborne almost all the time, could they be scared of heights?
If you’re someone like me, with a somewhat moderate fear of heights, also known as acrophobia, you’ll know that it takes a lot of confidence to actually just stand at the edge of a tall building or cliff. Let alone birds like the Rüppell’s vulture that can fly up to 37,100 feet! Yikes!
Imagine if you were a bird that can actually fly; what would be the scariest thing about it? The first jump, right? The very first time that you take that leap off the cliff and start frantically flapping around has got to be the toughest part. That’s it, you’ve already understood half the answer of when birds are scared of heights: their very first flight known as a fledging flight.
Birds actually slowly gain their confidence and overcome their fear of heights and of flight through a series of steps before they take their first flight. Okay, enough of me rambling, let’s let the videos do the talking!
Here’s a video of an eagle gaining its confidence to overcome its fear through small leaps:
If you’ve watched the video, you’ll realize that the eagle doesn’t take off from the nest the moment it learned how to flap its wings. It seemed that it was slowly building its confidence and losing its fear of heights over a few days! After a few short flights, the eagle will subsequently lose all fear of heights as an adult.
In case you missed out on the answer, here it is again:
Well, not to be biased toward eagles and them learning to overcome their fear of heights! There are many other bird species that learn to overcome their fear of heights; like Falcons! Birds test their new adult plumage wings on the ledge first, before sailing to a nearby building to rest and continue their journey to lose their fear of heights and flying.
Here’s a video I found that explains all these:
While some species of birds take a longer time to fly, some birds are much less afraid of heights than others. An example is the Arctic Geese Chicks. These chicks are super hardy little creatures that really learn from the school of hard knocks and take the heights head-on.
You’ll see how these chicks jump right off the cliff edges like professional skydivers, unafraid of heights in the video below!
You’ll also realize how hardy these chicks can get when they survive the hard landing below. These guys are amazing!
Here’s another case of a magpie fledgling being too afraid to move and fly, possibly due to its fear of heights. With enough beckoning and encouragement by its parents, it eventually flew away and overcome it!
Although, many of these fledgling birds overcoming their fear of heights have parents beside them to encourage them, some fledglings that are abandoned or lost their way may lose their motivation to overcome their fear of heights.
Here’s a case of a poor fledgling holding onto a branch, scared of heights and alone:
Okay, to end things off on a funny and light note, let me share this video with you of an eagle that is extremely afraid of heights and doesn’t want to fly. It was born and raised due to being weak in captivity, and is extremely timid! Check out the YouTube video here! (Make sure to watch the WHOLE video because it’s really funny!)
I can’t embed it so go have look at the link above!
So you’ve read through this entire article of different case studies of birds seemingly afraid of heights, especially fledgling birds.
You’ve also learned that they slowly learn to overcome that fear over time. Well, that’s great! I hope that this has broadened your mind in discovering the weird and cool side of wildlife and the biology of birds! Happy birding!
My Recommended Birding Resources:
Hey there, Justin here!
Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and brands I trust and love.
Safe Paint for Bird Baths Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting bird baths.
Safe Sealers for Bird Baths Guide: Learn which sealers are safe for bird baths.
Safe Paint for Bird Feeders Guide: Learn what special care needs to be taken to paint bird feeders with the right paint.
Safe Paint for Birdhouses Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting birdhouses. (Not the same as bird baths!)
Bird Identification Apps Guide: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great for tracking the birds sighted when birding.
Check out my resources page for the full list of resources I recommend!
Justin is the founder and author of Birding Outdoors. He is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences and a former data analyst.
Now, Justin runs the Birding Outdoors blog full-time, hoping to share his deep love for birds, birding, and nature with others.
To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.