The Travel Almanac

Birds in Caye Caulker, Belize
Birds in Caye Caulker, Belize

Top 10 List:

The World's Fastest Birds

[more Top-10 Lists]

It is commonly asked which bird is the fastest, and the answer can vary depending on who you ask, and what is measured. The answer will vary if you consider the maximum speed, average speed or speed while diving.

Fastest Gravity Assisted

Many people think that the fastest bird is the Peregrine Falcon, which is the true if you are looking at gravity aided flight while diving. When in its hunting dive, the stoop, the Peregrine Falcon is not only the fastest moving bird, it is the fastest animal on the planet. It first soars to a great height, then dives steeply at speeds of over 200 mph. However, it does not make the top ten list below which is based on speeds when travelling in level flight.

Fastest Migratory

In 2011 the great snipe was tracked from Sweden to central Africa, and found to fly non-stop over a distance of around 6,760 km (4,200 miles) at a 97 km/hr (60 mph). There may be other birds who are quicker, but are yet to be accurately tracked.

Fastest Level Flying

The following list is based on the travelling speed when measured in level flying. The info is from several sources and you may find other contradicting lists elsewhere. The top of this list, the Spine-tailed swift, obviously gets its name 'swift' for being so fast.

Bird max. recorded speed (km/h) max. recorded speed (mph)
1. Spine-tailed swift, also known as the White-throated Needletail (scientific name: Hirundapus caudacutus) 171 106
2. Frigate bird 153 95
3. Spur-winged goose 142 88
4. Red-breasted merganser 129 80
5. White-rumped swift 124 77
6. Canvasback duck 116 72
7. Eider duck 113 70
8. Teal 109 68
=9. Mallard 105 65
=9. Pintail 105 65

Other fastest animal lists include:

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