The only remaining descendants of the dinosaurs, birds are among the most fascinating creatures on earth. As per estimates, there are currently around ten thousand species of birds. The evolution of birds has given them some very unique characteristics, which enables them to fly almost effortlessly. These include a lightweight, yet strong skeleton, four chambered heart, and feathered wings. To understand how they rule the skies, here’s a quick look at the top five fastest birds in the world.
Grey-headed albatross – Belonging to the albatross family, grey-headed albatross is a large sized seabird. It is also referred to as the grey-headed mollymawk. Its primary nesting area includes the isolated islands in the Southern Ocean. The bird’s primary food is squid, but it also feeds on fish, lampreys, carrion, cephalopods and crustaceans. The bird’s horizontal speed is estimated to be around 78.9 mph (127 km/h).
White-throated needletail – A migratory bird, white-throated needletail can be found in southern Siberia and Central Asia during the breeding season. In winters, the bird migrates to locations such as Australia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. White-throated needletail stays airborne most of the time and does not like to be on the ground. It feeds on small flying creatures such as bees, flies, beetles and moths. The bird’s horizontal flight speed is estimated to be around 105 mph (169 km/h).
Gyrfalcon – The largest among the falcon bird species, Gyrfalcon is a bird of prey. It’s primary residence and breeding locations include Arctic coasts and tundra, the Euro Siberian region and the islands of northern North America. As an adaptation to their surrounding environment, the color of the bird may vary from all-white to dark brown. The primary prey of Gyrfalcon includes birds such as ptarmigan and waterfowl. It also feeds on fish and small mammals. Gyrfalcon’s dive speed is estimated to be around 130 mph (209 km/h). However, horizontal speed is lower at around 90 mph (145 km/h).
Golden eagle – One of the most capable birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, Golden eagle can be recognized by their dark brown body and wings and golden-brown plumage on the neck. Golden eagle’s dive speed is estimated to be around 150 mph (241 km/h), which comes handy when catching prey such as ground squirrels, rabbits, hares and marmots. The bird is also equipped with sharp talons and powerful feet.
Peregrine falcon – The fastest bird in the world is the peregrine falcon, which can be found in most places on earth. Its primary breeding areas extend from the Arctic tundra all the way to the tropics. Peregrine falcon feeds on a wide variety of prey including ducks and pigeons. As per estimates, the bird can dive at an astonishing speed of 242 mph (389 km/h).