The Top 5 Fastest Birds on Earth

  Bird Speed Red list Status Population Estimate
1 Peregrine Falcon (diving)
(Falco peregrinus)
321-563 km/h
(200-350 mph)
Least Concern (2009) 1,200,000
2 White-throated Needletail
(Hirundapus caudacutus)
170 km/h
(105 mph)
Least Concern (2009) Unknown (abundant)
3 Spur-winged goose
(Plectropterus gambensis)
104 km/h
(65 mph)
Least Concern (2009) 300,000 - 500,000
4 Red-breasted merganser
(Mergus serrator)
129 km/h
(100 mph)
Least Concern (2009) 510,000 - 610,000
5 White-rumped Swift
(Apus caffer)
129 km/h
(80 mph)
Least Concern (2009) Unknown
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 Special Report
  1. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest flying bird only when diving or "stooping" as it's called in aviation and thus is subject to controversy as the leader of the world's fastest "flyers". It's horizontal flying speed is between 80 to 90 kilometres per hour (50 to 60 mph). Although the often quoted diving speed of a Peregrine Falcons is as high as 89-157 meters/sec (200-350 mph) the accuracy of this speed is unknown because the speed of a diving falcon is difficult to measure. The required instrumentation is complex, and the dive of a falcon is a brief, rare event that takes place at unpredictable places and times.
  2. The White-throated Needletail was formerly known as the Spine-tailed Swift and is also sometimes known as the Storm-bird or Stormbird. It is the fastest flying bird during horizontal flight and has been known to make a "whooshing" sound when flying.
  3. In researching this list we found that the "Frigate bird" is another often quoted "fastest bird" (usually found on the web) at 153 km/h (90 mph) or even at 261.4 miles per hour (horizontal). We did not include this bird on the list as there are five species of "frigate bird" in the single genus "Fregata" and no reliable research which we could find actually mentions which particular species hold the record which calls into question the validity of other "top" lists with this bird on them.
  4. The spur-winged goose is by far the largest of the perching ducks with a body-weight of 5.4 to 6.8 kg in males and 4 to 5.4 kg in females and has been called "the most dangerous of all waterfowl" by Paul Johnsgard a waterfowl expert and professor of biology.
  5. The eyes of some birds weigh more than their brains. Air sacs may make up 1/5 of the body volume of a bird. A bird's heart beats 400 times per minute while resting and up to 1000 beats per minute while flying. The only known poisonous bird in the world is the hooded pitohui of Papua, New Guinea. A neurotoxin called homobatrachotoxin found in the birds' skin and feathers, causes numbness and tingling in those touching the bird.
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. Ornithology Lecture Notes 2 - Bird Flight I
  2. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  3. Birdlife International
Tags: Animals & Nature, Top 5 Fastest

Sources:  Top 5 of Anything research

List Notes: True record-holders of fastest flying birds are difficult to obtain with certainty and depends on many factors such as wind speed, how the speed was measured, etc. Official records are hard to find if they exist at all. Top 5 of Anything research has attempted to find the best available data and will update this list as more becomes available.
Fastest Birds on Earth

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