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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.

Birds swooping for food
Birds swooping for food in the Northern Territory

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 flying speed 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.

What about Bats!

In 2016, Gary McCracken of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville measured the flight speed of the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), and some achieved speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour in level flight, which would make them faster than any bird.

Fastest Level Flying

The following list of birds 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:

Old Comments

  • Peregrine falcon  'soar up and spread their wings to the wind.' citing the peregrine falcon as the fastest-flying bird, The Guinness Book of records says that it "reaches record speed levels when swooping from great heights during territorial displays, or when catching prey in midair." This bird has reached a speed of 349 kilometers per hour at a 45-degree angle of descent! (from Akerejola Phemy, Mar 2013)
  • Which is faster peregrine or cheetah? (from Isaiah, Feb 2013)
  • A sheerwater is a very fast water bird. About the size of a dove, pure white with very sharp and tapered wings.V shaped tail and will dive into water chasing small fish. I should think pigeon speed in level flight but way quicker in a dive. (from Palazzo, Feb 2013)
  • The peregrine falcon doesn't deserve a spot here not matter what you say because these are birds that are fastest while traveling at a level flight the falcon is the fastest animal in the world but only because of gravity. research before you get huffy (from amber rose, Feb 2013)
  • Peregrine falcon deserves a place in the list though assisted by gravity..afterall >100mph difference is hell of a thing...! (from kashif, Jan 2013)
    THE WORST LIST I SAW (from ASAD, Jan 2013)
  • Hi, great definition!!!!!!! I am very amazed!!!!!!I know you know this, but I'm telling you this,''The Peregrine Falcon is NOT the fastest moving bird.'' )(from Kiter Dave, Jan 2013)
  • You guys are NOT trying to find out you are the fastest birds. GOLD and HUMMERS.
  • What of the eagle (golden eagle).It is said that there dive is highest. (from John, Jan 2013)
  • Great compilation. BRAVO! (from timothy, Jan 2013)
  • The fastest bird in the world is peregrine falcon. It can reach  up to 400 km/h. However, It reaches that speed only when it's DIVING. Not FLYING (from Armin, Jan 2013)
  • Frigate birds aren't fast fliers. They glide most of the time as well as albatross. (from Sabrina J, Jan 2013)
  • I believe the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest bird, and in fact the fastest animal on the planet, when in its hunting dive, the stoop, in which it soars to a great height, then dives steeply at speeds of over 200 mph. However, it does not make the first when travelling in level flight. The maximum recorded speed is 242 mph (389 km/h). (from Amelia Valdez Cruz, Jan 1, 2013)
  • Dude where is the peregrin falcon? That was the worst list ever. (from trey, Dec 2012)
  • Could you tell me how fast the Gyrfalcon can fly and if it deserves a place in the top 10 of fastest birds. Thank you (from John Ryan, Nov 2012)
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) say the fastest bird in level flight is the humble Eider Duck yet it only reaches 7th place in your list. I would sooner believe the RSPB. (frmo Ernest Jones, Nov 2012)
  • i dont really care fir birds i am a PRIMATE guy (from josh, Nov 2012)
  • The list needs to be longer, say, top 100.  Top ten doesn't include enough birds (from MYOB, Oct 2012)
  • Which bird is the strongest? and which bird can fly higher? (from Crystal, Sept 2012)
  • Where are eagles? (from Deven, Sept 2012)
  • Is the hummingbird one of the fastest flying birds? (from George, Sept 2012)
    • hummingbirds are faster from a stop to start flying (from don, Sept 2012)
    • are humming birds the fastest? yes (from kiki mikid, Oct 2012)
  • The common pigeon is clocked to fly over 98km/h, so shouldn't that bird on the second place in the list. (source various science programs) (from Sam, July 2012)
  • golden eagle is the fastest you fools!!!!!!! (from siddharth s deshmukh, July 2012)
  • So spur winged geese can time travel! AWESOME!!!!!! (from Calvin Klein, June 2012)
  • most sources l have checked say gyrfalcon and they say over 100 miles an hour and they have great endurance to boot (from john, June 2012)
  • Awesome collection but the fastest bird is ostrich (from hunar, May 2012)
    • hunar, this list is for birds in flight. Ostriches may be fast on land but they don't fly. (from angelynx, June 2012)
  • Is the peregrine falcon faster on a normal basis than the spine-tailed swift? (from soyege, May 2012)
  • Homing pigeons have been recorded to fly faster than anyone on this list. 110 in a short distance race. So I'm gonna make the educated guess that this isn't very accurate. (from Matt, May 2012)
  • To say a dive is actually flying would say that a rock can "fly" at 180mph. The 250 mph "recorded" speed of a Peregrine is highly suspect. That would mean it was obtaining thrust from somewhere that is propelling it faster than free fall without flapping its wings. When mentioning migrating birds, I didn't mean to imply they were flying under their own power at those speeds, I was just suggesting that they be the fastest animals. If gravity is a factor in a Peregrine's dive then, wind has to be a factor, too. All of this is just "recorded" speeds. Any animal might be the fastest on any given day. Who is the fastest man on earth? It depends on what is chasing me.  :) (from Roy Neher, May 2012).
  • Why don't they add the falcon bird on the list? (from stanly ignatius, May 2012)
  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? (from Hans, April 2012)
    • is that a European swallow? (from Baker, June 2012)
  • What is faster out of a bald eagle, albatross, peregrine falcon or hawk ?please reply as this is a very important question and i need an answer (from lucy baly, April 2012)
  • How fast can a Homing Pigeon fly ? (from barry hope, March 2012)
  • Ok but flying with the wind is the same as in a dive. That is like saying that while in a airplane I was walking 600 mph (Rick, Feb 2012)
  • Roy, it does reach that flight level on its own power so yes it is flying, also that's why its not on top of the list... And as for migrating birds, none reach that speed. the highest recorded is 97kms an hour (60mph). That bird was the great snipe. (from Sam, March 2012)
  • In my 4th grade biology book it was written that hawks can go up to 300km/h (186 mi/h) when they nose dive (from SOKOL, Feb 2012)
  • Where would the Wedge tail eagle come in? (from George Clemente, Feb 2012)
  • FYI, your 'definition' is simply level flight &/or powered flight, which is what the Wright brothers achieved. By your definition, gliders don't fly (?) Furthermore, in flight, speeds, esp. in terms of records are defined by airspeed, not speed over the ground (or around a closed circuit, where winds tend to cancel out/reduce the average speed). In any case, the Peregrine might achieve its top speeds in a dive, but it gains the altitude under its own power. It can hardly be described as a glider, which is the only other description of what it does - it doesn't simply fall out of the sky, then slow down like a skydiver under a parachute - it dives at an angle, thus producing lift throughout the dive & pull out (and continues flying at the speed in level flight, albeit decelerating). By any meaningful definition, it is the fastest animal on earth - if nothing else, it has been clocked at up to 250mph, which at least equally qualifies as 'between 200mph and 300mph.' (from Mike, Feb 2012)
  • how about eagles? what speed do they reach? (from dosjan, Feb 2012)
  • In 66 years of life I've never seen a sight like I saw yesterday while driving 65-70 mph on the freeway. A totally white bird with black eyes was flying in front of me and other cars, at our level, and keeping-up with traffic for at least 3/4 of a mile! It actually flew faster than traffic for a few seconds, and swooped back and forth between 3 lanes ... yet staying right in the flow of traffic, even flying behind and in front of cars! At one point it flew behind me, then came into the lane to my left, and stayed there for a few seconds. I could see it clearly, and it had the shape and size of a dove, even the erratic-flight motion... but completely white. But most importantly it had wings tapering to a point. I had my camera, but I was so amazed that I didn't take my eyes of this incredible sight! Now I've been trying to research this speedster; yet the top 10 -- beginning at 65 mph -- don't include it. I know for sure this bird was able to fly 65 mph consistently, with bursts to at least 70, and possibly 75 mph. Can you help me determine what in the world I saw? I have very good vision, and I observed this bird clearly. (from Greg Bishop, Jan 2012)
    • Greg Bishop.... I'm no expert, but a dove-sized bird with pointed wings... sounds like some kind of falcon, although I don't know a white one, maybe an escapee? I'm only guessing. (from Mark Wright, Jan 2012)
    • Greg Bishop, you probably saw a Mississippi Kite.  They are great fliers, very fast and graceful.  It is mostly white with black around its eyes.   It could also be a Swallow-tailed Kite, but that has more black on it. (from Peter Greenberg, feb 2012)
  • Birds are my favorite animal!! My favorite bird is the crimson roseala (from Cooper, Jan 2012)
  • Some parrots seem really fast. What sort of speeds do they reach? (from Simon Miller, Aug 2011)
  • The Peregrine does not achieve its speed while flying, only in a dive. The definition of flying is 'The ability to maintain level flight under one's own power.'  That is what the Wright brothers had to prove. Not only is the Peregrine not the fastest flyer, it's not even the fastest creature. Migrating birds, riding the high altitude winds, can reach speeds of between 200mph and 300mph. (from Roy Neher, April 2011)


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