(noun) The total length of a bird's wings, measured between the tips of the primary feathers on each wing when the wings are fully extended and level with the body to give the greatest length. If a bird's wings are naturally angled, such as some swifts and swallows, the wingspan length is measured between the tips without crossing the body to give an actual spread of the wings rather than an unnatural measurement.
The proportions of a bird's wingspan to its body size vary with different species and the type of flight most common for the bird. Birds that soar for long periods, such as albatrosses and eagles, have longer wings that are adapted to that type of flight. Wingspan lengths vary greatly among bird species, from just a few inches in the smallest hummingbirds to several feet for larger seabirds and raptors.
Wingspan can be used in bird identification by comparing the length of the wings to the overall body size and proportions of the bird. When examining wingspan, also note wing markings, shape and flight pattern to help identify birds in flight.
Photo – Waved Albatross © putneymark