The Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon of the genus Falco peregrinus is not only the fastest bird in the world, it is also the fastest animal in the world (while diving). The peregrine falcon is the fastest recorded bird while in a hunting dive. Typically the bird will dive at 150 mph; some records have the bird swooping at 200 mph. A recent National Geographic program even claims that the bird flew at 250 mph during tests.
Looking like a mini stealth air force fighter, the dart- like peregrine,will pull a staggering 10 G maneuver as, the bird’s wings stretch fold out again whiled the bird recovers from the swoop. Such G-force would knock out a human pilot.
The peregrine falcon performs the, ‘stoop’ where it climbs to a great hight and then plunges at speed hitting the wing of its prey at speeds no other animal can match. However, a new scientific study lauded the Brazilian free-tailed bat as the fastest animal; bats tagged with radio transmitters, were measured flying at almost 99.5 mph in horizontal flight but they discounted the White-throated needle tail.
The peregrine is not the fastest bird, to fly in straight flight. That award currently has been attributed to the White-throated needletail. Recordings of the White-throated needletail have clocked the bird flying in a straight line at 105 mph.
The Habitat of the Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon has been very successful in inhabiting large geographical areas of the globe. The Peregrine is found in almost every region from Africa to Northern Europe. Extremely cold arctic areas are the only areas avoided by the bird.
It has a charcoal coloured head, and dark brown plumage. A blue, grey smudge can be seen down it’s back, while white and black feathers stripe it’s underside. The peregrine is the size of a common crow with a body length of 34 to 58 cm and a wingspan between 74 to 120 cms. The bird can be easily recognized by the yellow frames around its eyes and the yellow stripe on the bridge of it’s beak.
The White-Throated Needletail
The White-throated needletail Is the fastest bird recorded in horizontal flight. It is also known as the spine-tailed swift or needle-tailed swift. Of the genus: Hirundapus. It literally flies like a bullet. A migratory bird, the swift spends most of it’s time in the air. While they typically breed in central Asia, they migrate often to warmer climes such as South East Asia and Southern Asia. However, sightings have been made even in Scandinavia. The White-throated needletail is a robust looking bird, typically of 20 cm in length. The bird is easily recognizable as the tail is not forked like many swifts.
The Golden Eagle
Females grow large than the males. The bird is also extremely fast in horizontal flight being able to reach speeds of 80 mph. The famous eagle is unique among their family as their wingspan often fixes in a slight dihedral during flight (a slight v-shape).
Appearance of The Golden Eagle
Standing at sometimes 5 feet tall, the Golden eagle is recorded as the second fastest diving bird in the world at speeds of around 200 mph. The wingspan of this huge raptor can grow to 40 inches (2.3 meters). Unlike it’s name the Golden eagle, it does not appear golden apart from faint russet feathers on it’s charcoal coloured body and head. Some white feathers are scattered on the wings and a ridge of white on the tail. Strong long legs match its dark appearance. Its strong claws are white.
Of the genus: Accipitridae, the Golden eagle feeds on insects to medium sized mammals, including rabbits and mice. The great bird is still found in North America, areas of North Africa and Eurasia.
The Saker Falcon
The Saker falcon of the genus: Falcon cherrug is the second largest falcon at 57 cms in length at its biggest. The largest falcon which is the gyrfalcon grows up to 65 cm in length (17-21 inches). Thin, tapered wings, enable them to fly at high speed. The bird is migratory, wintering in Ethiopia, the Arabian peninsula, northern Pakistan and western China.
Interesting facts* Unlike hawks they have an adapted tooth on the side of their beaks for killing prey.
The Saker Falcon has a diving speed of up to 200 mph while it’s faster than a peregrine falcon at level flight achieving speeds of up to 93 mph.
The falcons have speckled brown, and light brown white underbellies and contrasting Grey and brown flight feathers. The head and underparts are paler brown, with speckled white and pale brown feathers on the breast with a white bib under the beak.
The IAF sponsored website www.sakerfalcon.org provides information in English for researchers, veterinarians and other practitioners, and is part of the first project.
Gyrfalcon of the genus Falcon rusticolus, can fly level at speeds of up to 93 mph and will swoop at prey at speeds up to 135 mph. There are grey morph and white morph variants. The female and male of the white morph variant are white with brown speckles and streaks in their plumage, with the female being larger, of the two. Their colours can be very light or very dark. They can be recognized by the cream streaks on the nape and crown.
Birds of the grey morph are largely speckled grey and brown. Juveniles are browner than adults. Gyrfalcons are very large falcons growing to 48-64 cm in length. They have pointed wings with thick and powerful bodies.
Interesting Facts” For centuries they were kept as hunting birds. They prey on water fowl like ducks. Gyrfalcons don’t build their own nests, and often use a flat, empty cliff ledge or a vacated nest of other large birds.
Gyrfalcons breed on arctic tundra. They have a wide range of habitat. When they fly south for winter, they look for similar habitat: they like open spaces near fields or dunes. The Gyrfalcon is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN.