Which Are the Fastest Birds?

It's not all about speed, since few birds can reach more than 186 mph. In fact, one bird surpasses all expectations. They're not athletic, and their bodies aren't aerodynamic, but they can travel more than 4000 miles at 62 mph without resting.
Which Are the Fastest Birds?
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The world’s fastest birds can easily fly and hunt at 186mph .   Their bodies are perfect for life in the air and can survive different pressures and temperatures in the atmosphere.   Here are the fastest birds on the planet:  

Peregrine falcon: the fastest bird in the world 

The peregrine falcon is  the fastest bird and the fastest animal on our planet.   They’re  good hunters and can easily fly at 217mph in pursuit of prey.  

According to official records,  the highest officially measured speed of a flight peregrine falcon was 239mph  in 2005.  

However, specialists estimate  that these birds reach  248mph at low altitudes  and could exceed  372mph at high altitudes.    

A peregrine falcon.

The body of a peregrine falcon has  small bone tubers to prevent injury while hunting .   If they didn’t have them, they could easily injure their lungs and other body tissues in changing atmospheric pressures.   This adaptability allows them to gain speed from high altitudes to catch their prey.  

Fastest birds: The amazing record of great snipes 

Great snipes are typically shorebirds that have small, chubby bodies.   However , their seemingly unathletic physique doesn’t stop them from holding a world record.   These birds have the fastest recorded flight over long distances, without stops.  

Recent scientific observations revealed that  great snipes carry out their  entire migration  at an average speed of almost 62mph .   This means traveling more than 4160 miles, from Sweden to Africa, at a constant high speed without stopping.  

The discovery is thanks to a group of biologists who captured 10 great snipes in Sweden to analyze their flight behavior. The scholars placed geolocators on the selected birds  for their migration  from Europe to Africa.  

A great snipe.

They were surprised at the  bird’s speed, especially as their body isn’t very aerodynamic .   In 2010, after a year of observation by these scholars, the great snipes were recovered and released without the devices to continue their normal life.  

Researchers currently believe that their ‘chubby’ bodies reserve the energy they need to fly so many miles  without stopping.   Otherwise, they’d need to stop constantly to feed and hydrate themselves during their long journey.  

This also explains why  these birds acquire more intense eating habits during the fall. Their  bodies need to store nutrients to migrate during the winter.    In fact, great snipes tend to double their weight in the weeks before the start of their transcontinental migration.  

More of the world’s fastest birds 

As well as the peregrine falcon, other extremely fast birds can easily exceed 124 and up to 186 mph.   Below are  the six species that follow  the peregrine falcon  on the world’s fastest bird list:  

Golden Eagle 

Golden eagles  are highly appreciated not only for their agility, but also for their beauty and hunting skills.   During flight, they can easily reach 186mph and are ruthless hunters.  

A golden eagle in flight.

They belong to the Accipitridae family  and is the most well-known species of prey on our planet.  

Alpine swift 

These untiring birds  can exceed 124mph and can reach insects and small birds in full flight .   They spend almost all their lives flying, except when raising their chicks.  

Brazilian merganser 

Brazilian mergansers look quite particular thanks to their quiffs and bills.   Males and females have  a prominent feathered quiff  that usually measures about 4 inches.  

In addition , they have a group of small teeth on the lower and upper jaws of their beaks.   They’re small birds that measure around 20 inches and can hunt at around 100mph during flight.  

Northern gannet 

Northern gannets  stand out for their white plumage with black tips and their cream-colored heads ; however, this plumage only develops completely in both sexes from the age of four.   They’re very attractive birds  and can reach 100mph during flight.  

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.