Which is the fastest bird in the world?

The winner, wings down, is the peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus, which may also be the fastest animal of any kind on earth.

Estimates of its top speed when diving start around 200 miles per hour, and some authorities put it considerably higher, perhaps 275 m.p.h. Its top horizontal speed is 60 m.p.h. or more.

The high speeds are essential to the normal feeding habits of the peregrine falcon, which overtakes and kills other birds or bats in midair.

The bird cruises for hours, then plunges in a move known as a stoop. The prey is often killed by violent impact with the peregrine’s snatching talons.

The peregrine falcon is about 15 to 21 inches long, and its wingspan is about 36 to 44 inches. The population of peregrine falcons has made a well-publicized recovery since the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972.

The residue of the poison in the peregrines’ prey built up in the fatty tissue in the parents, and the female falcons laid eggs that were deficient in calcium and too weak to withstand the incubation of thirty-two days or longer under a mother who weighs about three pounds.