7 Fastest Birds in the World

Birds have captivated humanity since time immemorial. They have become literary metaphors for beauty and nature and political symbols for freedom and liberation because of their remarkable capacity to fly. There are currently nine countries whose flags have bird symbols. 

According to National Geographic, there are an estimated 50 to 428 Billion birds in the world, and as of 2022, 18,000 different species exist, according to the American Museum of Natural History. All these birds have the same elegance in flight, yet each flies at a different pace. 

And while the cheetahs rule the speed competition as they can run from 80 to 130 kilometers per hour on land, can the fastest bird beat the record? 

Check out the top 7 fastest birds in the world to get an idea.

7. Canvasback

Maximum Airspeed:128 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Aythya Valisineria
Habitat: Lake or wetland
 Location: North America

Canvasbackphoto source: PixaHive

Popularly known as “bullnecks,” canvasbacks are the largest diving ducks in North America. Like other diving ducks, they need a running start to get off the water’s surface and fly. Even though they are pretty big, they can move through the air quickly. 

They feed by diving and spend most of their time in marshes and lakes with moderately deep water. They root in the mud to find their food, plant tubers from submerged aquatic plants.

The males are easy to spot because their bodies are bright white, their heads and necks are dark maroon, and their eyes have red color, whereas females are typically brown.

Female canvasbacks build their nests on the ground, in the thick vegetation at the water’s edge. They make enormous nests from grass, cattails, reeds, and other plants. The female lays 5 to 11 eggs, which she then incubates for less than a month.

Did You Know:

Alexander Wilson, a Scottish-American poet and ornithologist, chose the name Valisineria. The name is taken from the genus name of one of the preferred diets of canvasbacks: celery.

6. Frigatebird

Maximum Airspeed:153 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Fregata
Habitat: ocean coasts and islands
 Location: Coastal Florida and in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Frigatebirdphoto source: Wikipedia

The frigate bird spends almost all of its time in the air, landing only to sleep or tend to its nest, making it the most airborne bird in the world except the swift. Unbelievably swift and skilled flier, it soars smoothly and often dives to collect fallen fish abandoned aloft by panicked boobies or other seabirds. Their large, pointed wings may spread to a maximum of 2.3 meters.

The males and females of this species seem different, yet both sexes share similar characteristics, including long, hooked beaks, black plumage, and sharply forked tails. In addition, during mating season, males inflate a characteristic regular pouch, and both sexes have regular white underbellies.

Their diet consists mainly of tiny marine animals, including squid, fish, jellyfish, crabs, turtles, and turtle’s eggs.

This bird lays only one egg. The female may use sticks to construct the nest, which she usually erects in a group of mangroves or a tree, shrub, and ground. The man delivers the supplies.

The chick hatches after around 50 days. The male and the female incubate the egg and feed their young chick.

Did You Know:

The frigatebird, often known as the “man-o-war bird,” gets its name from the way it harasses prey into regurgitating the prey it has just grabbed, from which it then swoops down and steals.

5. Eurasian Hobby

Maximum Airspeed:159 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Falco subbuteo
Habitat: Open woodland, farmland, wetland, grassland
 Location: Europe, Asia, and Africas

Eurasian Hobbyphoto source: Flickr

The Eurasian hobby, sometimes known simply as the hobby, is a tiny, slender falcon. As a kind of falcon, it is part of a small yet tight-knit community.

They have long, pointed wings and swift flight, making them ideal predators of giant insects and tiny birds like swallows and martins. Their prey is often captured in the talons and transferred to the beak while in flight. They also can swiftly gain speed while in flight and execute complex maneuvers at high altitudes.

They prefer open woodland and farms with stands of trees, but they are known to cross bodies of water and marshes in their pursuit of food.

The nests used by hobbys are usually built by crows or other birds. Usually, two or three eggs are laid in June, and the chicks fledge at the end of the month.

Did You Know:

Because it was the designer’s favorite bird, the Latin word for hobbys inspired the football game “Subbuteo.” Subbuteo translates to “smaller than buzzard” in English.

4. White-Throated Needletail

Maximum Airspeed:170 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Hirundapus caudacutus
Habitat: Almost aerial but also roost on trees
 Location: Eastern and Northern Australia, southern Siberia, and Central Asia

photo source: Wikimedia

Considered to be a huge swift, this species can reach a speed of up to 170 kilometers per hour, although this number is unproven as the methods used to determine the speed have not been made public.

These birds eat flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, and termites and use their large beak to snag their prey.

They are distinguished by their long, curved wings and white markings and have solid and barrel-shaped bodies. They weigh around 110 grams to 120 grams and have a length of about 20 cm. Their generally brownish coloring is broken up by a white neck and a white patch that runs from the tail’s tip to the body’s sides.

Did You Know:

It was widely believed amongst scientists for a long time that this species, capable of reaching speeds of up to 47m/s in level flight, was the fastest-flying bird in the world. However, such an estimate has never been verified by researchers.

3. Saker Falcon

Maximum Airspeed:320 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Lives everywhere, from heavy rainfall environments to deserts.
Habitat: From Eastern Europe to Western Asia
 Location: Eastern and Northern Australia, southern Siberia, and Central Asia

Saker Falconphoto source: Flickr

At 320 kilometers per hour, this predator may swoop down and deliver a killing blow to its prey. A regular flight may reach speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour.

In contrast to Peregrines, they engage in horizontal hunting, feeding primarily on small mammals and birds. Feral pigeons and ground squirrels are among their favorite foods in Europe.

Their upper bellies are brown, and the wing feathers are gray. The head and underparts are pale browns with breast-down striping. Their tail extends beyond the wingtips at repose, giving them “short wings.” Some birds with light crowns and scant facial markings seem pale-headed.

This species typically lays 3-6 eggs in a stick nest formerly used by storks, ravens, or buzzards.

Unfortunately, the Saker Falcon’s population is rapidly declining, especially in its central Asian nesting areas, due to several reasons, including illegal trade for falconry.

Did You Know:

The country’s national symbol is the Saker Falcon, or Turul, as it is called in Hungarian folklore.

2. Golden Eagle

Maximum Airspeed:322 kilometers/hour
 Scientific Name: Aquila Chrysaetos
Habitat: wide-open spaces, grasslands, or rocky areas; mountains; semi-open fields.
 Location: North America and Eurasia

Golden Eaglephoto source: HDWallpapers.net

The golden eagle is a powerful and imposing emblem due to its size (its wingspan is 6-8 feet). However, they may not appear particularly remarkable due to their relatively slow average flight speed of about 51 kilometers per hour. Still, they can have a dizzying dive speed of approximately 320 kilometers per hour when it quickly leaps upon their victim.

The tails and wings of these eagles have a dark brown hue, while the backs of their necks feature golden patches. Their large talons help them catch and hold onto their prey.

Typically, they like to be by themselves or in couples. They prefer wide-open spaces, especially those close to cliffs, hills, and mountains. They construct massive nests, often using the same one for as many as three mating seasons. The females lay one to four eggs incubated for 40 to 45 days by both parents.

Did You Know:

They have a vision of the front and side at a 45-degree angle. So they can see a running rabbit even up to five kilometers away.

1. Peregrine Falcon

Maximum Airspeed:380 kilometers per hour
 Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
Habitat: They live everywhere, from heavy rainfall environments to deserts.
 Location: They are found in different continents except for Antarctica

Peregrine Falconphoto source: Wikimedia

The number 1 fastest bird in the world is the Peregrine falcon. It can dive at 320  kilometers per hour under optimal conditions when hunting on the wing. Experimental dives show this species can reach 389  kilometers per hour.

Peregrine falcons are large, quick predators and prey on songbirds, shorebirds, ducks, grebes, gulls, pigeons, bats, and rodents. The falcon’s strong, golden talons can catch even soaring birds. Their head, back, wings, and tail are bluish-gray, their chin and neck are white, and each eye has a yellow circle.

They nest atop 1,300-foot-high cliffs, and the female chooses the nesting place after the male picks a few—the eggs hatch in 29 to 32 days.

Did You Know:

Peregrines were in danger of becoming locally extinct in Canada and the United States because of DDT absorbed by their prey, fish, and other birds. Fortunately, peregrine falcons have progressively expanded since DDT was outlawed in the 1970s.

And yes, the fastest bird beat the fastest feline on land!

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