- Characteristics of the Fastest Birds
- Top 7 Fastest Birds in the World
- Comparison of the Fastest Birds
Have you ever wondered which bird is the fastest in the world? Maybe you’re curious about birds that fly at incredible speeds. I’ll let you know about the fastest birds in the world including physical characteristics, behavior patterns, and much more.
The National Audubon Society tells us that the fastest bird in the sky is the Peregrine Falcon. It flies at speeds over 240 mph while diving and swooping, but not during regular flight. During regular flight (without diving or swooping), the fastest bird is the Common Swift, which flies at 69 mph.
Today, I will share a plethora of information about the fastest birds in the world. So, if you’ve ever had any interest in this topic, this is certainly the article for you. We explore the following topics in this article:
- Top 7 fastest birds in the world
- Characteristics of the fastest birds (physical features, behavioral patterns, etc.)
- Comparison of the fastest birds (differences, similarities, unique features, etc.)
- Ranking the fastest birds in the world according to their speed
- and more!
Are you excited to learn more about the world’s fastest birds? Keep reading to learn the truth about these lightning quick majestic creatures below.
Characteristics of the Fastest Birds
The fastest birds in the world and definitely share many of the same characteristics. Some of those characteristics are physical, while others are behavioral in nature.
In other instances, certain speedy birds live in certain geographic ranges or habitats that they have in common.
Their common characteristics include the following:
Physical features of the fastest birds
From a physical standpoint, the areas that make up an incredibly fast bird include the following characteristics:
- Streamlined feathers
- Strong chest muscles
- Curved wings
- Light hollow bones
According to How Stuff Works, “Because of the many different variations and gradations of these traits, each of the more than 10,000 species of birds as its own style (or specialty) of flying.”
Some birds flap their wings in order to fly as fast as possible. Others can reach lightning speeds by gliding as fast as they possibly can. Peregrine Falcons, for example, are incredibly fast while swooping and diving.
Behavioral patterns of the fastest birds
The main way that the fastest birds in the world increase their velocity has to do with the way that they fly. Or to put it another way, it has to do with the way they dive or swoop, which are two intense behaviors that lead to maximum velocity for birds.
Why would birds dive or swoop?
For the most part, they participate in this behavior because they are trying to catch prey in mid-flight. Birds with maneuverability and agility will swoop down or divebomb their prey at inhumanly fast speeds in order to catch them and kill them for their next meal.
Large birds like Peregrine Falcons and Golden Eagles can swoop down and catch goats, sheep, and other slower large mammals.
Habitat and geographic range of the fastest birds
The fastest birds in the world like the Peregrine Falcon, the Golden Eagle, and the Gyrfalcon share many of the same preferred habitats as the others.
For example, the Golden Eagle encompasses a wide geographic range including open country containing cliffs, bluffs, and hills. Arid desert lands, canyonlands, intermittent forested habitats, woodlands-brushlands, and the tundra.
The Gyrfalcon, on the other hand, is similar to the Peregrine Falcon in the Gold Eagle as far as habitat similarities are concerned. It prefers flying along coastlines, open fields, prairies, and it often heads south for the winter.
The Peregrine Falcon also likes to live in the geographic location and range along coastlines, within intermittent forests, in the mountains especially, and it even makes habitats in cities and valleys as well as deserts.
Top 7 Fastest Birds in the World
There aren’t too many incredibly fast birds in the world, but you’d be surprised to learn of some of their top speeds, which we will cover in greater detail.
The fastest birds in the world according to their speed include:
- Peregrine Falcon
- Saker Falcon
- Golden Eagle
- Red-Tailed Hawk
- White-Throated Needletail
- Eurasian Hobby
- Grey-Headed Albatross
The Peregrine falcon is a very special bird because out of all of the birds in the world, it is the fastest flier of the bunch. This bird can achieve a maximum speed of 240 mph, while diving head first to catch its prey. It regularly flies and dives between 200-240 mph.
While flying levelly, the Peregrine falcon does not achieve such high speeds. Its max speed during level flying is 68 mph.
This bird can achieve such extreme speeds because its wings are aerodynamic and it can fold them back against its body. This reduces drag while giving the bird the ability to speed up and keep speeding up until it finally catches its target.
The Peregrine falcon has excellent visual processing speed, so we can move incredibly quickly without crashing into objects or other birds in flight. This bird is so fast that it can snag rabbits and catch doves, songbirds, and pigeons in mid flight.
The Saker Falcon is unfortunately an endangered species. Its preferred habitat is the open grasslands of Africa and Eurasia, where it feeds on other birds and small rodents while swooping down on its prey at lightning fast speeds of 200 mph.
It hits its prey so quickly that it paralyzes it with a fast-moving strike. The poor animals never knew what hit them.
During normal flight, the Saker falcon is actually quicker than the Peregrine falcon even though it cannot swoop as fast. It can achieve a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour while flying levelly.
Its wingspan is over 4 feet, and it loves hunting in open spaces near cliffs, trees, and along the edges of the desert.
The Golden Eagle is a majestic creature with an incredibly wide wingspan of 6-8 feet in length. This bird is powerful to say the least, yet it isn’t very impressive when flying normally at a steady level pace. It only reaches top speeds of 28-32 mph, which isn’t very impressive when compared to the Saker Falcon or Peregrine Falcon.
But let’s not give up on the Golden Eagle because this bird is very special. As far as diving is concerned, the Golden Eagle can swoop down on its prey at dizzying speeds. In fact, while swooping or diving, it can reach lightning quick speeds of 150-200 mph.
According to A-Z Animals, “it’s raw size comes at the cost of some agility and maneuverability though. It cannot quite catch a particularly fast-moving bird in mid-flight. But it is capable of killing slower prey as large as a sheep or goat.”
Golden Eagles love geographic locations that include the mountainous regions in North America and desert regions of Mexico. They like living near cliffs or ledges, but their favorite places to live and hunt include rugged mountain terrain.
The Red-Tailed Hawk is a bird with strong representation all across North America. You can find this majestic creature from Panama heading all the way to Alaska. It may not be the fastest bird on this list at normal speed since it only flies between 20-40 mph.
Don’t worry though because it definitely belongs on this list. After spotting prey while flying, it can stupid down and dive for its prey at speeds of over 120 mph.
This hunting bird is opportunistic to say the least. It will eat just about anything that it can get its grubby little claws on including small mammals and rodents. It has incredibly keen eyesight, which is eight times stronger than the vision of a human being. So, you can easily spot a field mouse from over 100 feet away.
Beware snakes and rodents! Its talons are 1.33 inches long, which means it can easily grab onto snakes, mice, rats, and other small mammals with the greatest of ease.
This majestic bird is so aptly named because it has needlelike, sharp tailfeathers. It’s a member of the Swift family and it looks quite spiky. In the past, it actually went by a different name. They used to call it the Spine-Tailed Swift.
This bird lives in East Asia and it spends most of its time flying through the air and catching small insects during flight. It eats a variety of insects including flies, bees, and moths. Its wings are very large, very strong, and many people mistaken it for a bird of prey.
It prefers spending its time flying along the coast, because there are plenty of insects for it to devour during its flight.
According to ebird.org, “A powerful-looking swift with long saber-shaped wings and a bullet-shaped body. The only swift in its range that combines a clean white throat and smooth pale gray back… Call is a high-pitched, screaming twitter.”
The Eurasian Hobby is a member of the falcon family with a slender, small body that tends to breed in Asia and Europe. While migrating, it will fly very far south during the winter and often reach the tip of Africa.
Like all other falcons, this bird is considered a bird of prey. It can dive incredibly fast and while swooping down, it can reach speeds up to 100 mph or more.
Remarkably, even though this bird can fly incredibly quickly, its mid-air control is perfectly exquisite. It has such refined maneuverability that it can pass food from male to female right in the middle of its flight. This happens regularly as a part of the courtship display.
The Eurasian Hobby is good at catching meals in mid flight. It preys upon swifts, swallows, small bats, and other small mammals as well. While in the presence of House Martins, they use a hobby call to alert one another about this dangerous predator
The Grey-Headed Albatross is a unique bird to make this list. It’s different from all of the other birds because it spends the majority of its whole life at sea. It can often roam as far as 8000 miles in an effort to find food.
This bird does return to land under one circumstance. It will return during the breeding season, but that’s about it.
It has an incredibly large wingspan of over 7 feet long, and when it flies, it actually looks like it’s floating across the air. It doesn’t flap its wings all that often in an effort to conserve energy, so it’s very effective at gliding long distances.
At top speed, the Grey-Headed Albatross can reach nearly 80 mph, and it’s currently a Guinness Book of World Records record holder. This bird is the fastest bird in level flight in existence today, which is certainly huge bragging rights.
Comparison of the Fastest Birds
Many of the fastest birds in the world have certain similarities but they also possess differences as well. Some have certain abilities and unique feathers that make them incredibly quick.
The main similarities or differences include:
Differences and similarities between the top 5 fastest birds
- Peregrine Falcon – it’s similar to the top five fastest birds because it has a large wingspan, the ability to dive very quickly, and it preys upon other birds and small animals. The biggest difference is that the Peregrine Falcon prefers to live and hunt in mountainous regions.
- Saker Falcon – It’s quite similar to other incredibly quick birds because it also dives fast, has a large wingspan, and it can hunt and capture some of the fastest birds and animals in the world. It quickly strikes and paralyzes its prey like other birds that dive while hunting. The biggest difference, unfortunately, is that the Saker Falcon is considered an endangered species, while other fast birds have a conservation status of Least Concern.
- Golden Eagle – Like other quick birds, the Golden Eagle has a very large wingspan, a powerful chest, and it can fly at dizzying speeds while diving. It’s different from the top five fastest birds because during an average flight, it doesn’t fly very quickly. It only reaches 28-32 mph, which isn’t very fast.
- Red-Tailed Hawk – The Red-Tailed Hawk is like other fast birds because it’s quite common in North America, it dives down to catch its prey at a very fast speeds of 120 mph, and it will eat just about anything including small mammals, rodents, and other birds. One big difference is its long talons. They are quite formidable at 1.33 inches long and it can even use them to catch snakes.
- White-Throated Needletail – This large swift is similar because it loves to fly and prefers open ranges and forested areas like many other fast birds. Plus, it has very large and strong wings. It’s different because it’s from East Asia, loves to feed on small flying insects, and it devours flies, bees, and moths during flight.
Discussion of each bird’s unique features and abilities
- Peregrine Falcon – Adult Peregrine Falcons have a buff colored underside that contains brown spots, their faces are white and have a black tiger stripe upon their cheeks, their beaks are hooked, and I have strong talents. Their large wings are blue-gray in color and they have dark brown feathers along their back. Their wings are long, pointy, and they have pointy tails that make it easy for them to stoop (dive).
- Saker Falcon – the Saker falcon has a wingspan between 38-50 inches, and their total body length is 18-22 inches. Males weigh between 26 to 35 ounces and females are larger and weigh between 34 to 46 ounces. These birds are powerful and have contrasting gray flight feathers with brown underbellies and there are streaks along their breast.
- Golden Eagle – The Golden Eagle has lustrous golden feathers that gleam on the back of the neck and head. Their talons and beak are incredibly powerful, which are perfect because these avid hunters use them to devastate their prey. While attacking, the Golden Eagle prefers to attack its prey upwind, which gives it more control, maneuverability, and greater speed.
- Red-Tailed Hawk – The unique characteristics of the red-tailed hawk include rich brown colors on top of their torso, pale colors on the bottom, and streaks on the underside of their wings and belly. There is also a dark bar between their wrist and shoulder. Their unique abilities include binocular vision and keen eyesight, sharp beaks, and powerful talons that make it easy to grab hold of their prey.
- White-Throated Needletail – its plumage is predominantly grayish brown, but it also has a glossy green color on the wings. Their wings are long and pointy and they have a square, short tail. Their feathers have protruding shafts that provide a spiky appearance. The under tail and throat area of this bird is white. It can fly at incredibly fast speeds and it has pointed wings and a stubby tail that help it fly very quickly.
Ranking of the fastest birds based on their speed
|Bird Name (Rank)
|1. Peregrine Falcon
|Up to 240 mph
|2. Saker Falcon
|Up to 200 mph
|3. Golden Eagle
|Up to 200 mph
|4. Red-Tailed Hawk
|Up to 120 mph
|5. White-Throated Needletail
|Up to 105 mph
|6. Eurasian Hobby
|Up to 100 mph
|7. Gray-Headed Albatross
|Up to 80 mph
We learned a lot about the fastest birds in the world today. They have many differences but also share a number of similarities. They possess unique features and abilities that allow them to fly so quickly. And most important of all, the quickest birds are usually the largest and most impressive birds with the ability to take flight.
Recap of the fastest birds in the world
The fastest birds in the world today include the following bird species:
- Peregrine Falcon
- Saker Falcon
- Golden Eagle
- Red-Tailed Hawk
- White-Throated Needletail
- Eurasian Hobby
- Grey-Headed Albatross
They possess many of the same characteristics including larger wingspans, large bodies, streamline feathers, hollow bones, curved wings, and strong chest muscles. These birds tend to live in the same types of habitats and geographic regions and they participate in the same diving and swooping behaviors to catch their prey at extremely high velocities.
Importance of preserving and protecting these magnificent creatures
These creatures are magnificent birds and they are incredibly beautiful to look at. They deserve to continue their existence in peace and harmony with the land.
Unfortunately, due to deforestation, indirect poisoning, habitat lost, and trapping, many of these beautiful birds are now on the endangered species list. This means their population numbers continue to steadily decline.
It’s important to do everything in our power to preserve and protect these wonderful birds. Not only do they help keep our ecosystems running smoothly, certain birds like vultures and crows scavenge for carcasses, they minimize the spread of distemper in rabies among other diseases, and they spread plants to other areas by dispersing seeds.
Most important of all, these beautiful creatures have a right to live and breathe just like the rest of us. So please, do everything in your power to keep these birds healthy, safe, and protected. Contact your local Conservancy to find out more about how you can help.
Encouragement for birdwatchers to observe and learn more about the fastest birds in the world.
Hello fellow birdwatchers!
It’s time to take the next step and begin learning about and observing the fastest birds in the world. These beautiful and majestic creatures deserve your time and attention.
These amazing creatures are worth studying and they can teach us a lot about life. They know how to survive, thrive, and live off the land. Plus, they are beautiful to look at and by observing them, you’ll get to see them in living color and appreciate their full beauty and majesty.
It’s exciting to watch a Red-Tailed Hawk swoop down toward its prey at ultra-fast speeds. You’ll truly enjoy seeing this happen in person, so I highly recommend that you learn more about these incredible birds and begin observing them in their natural habitat too!