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20 Fastest Birds in the World (In The Sky, Land, & Water)

Wondering what the world’s fastest birds are? Here’s a list of the fastest birds in the world according to their specifications.

But before we name these fast birds, it’s worth mentioning that there are two ways to measure flight speed: when they fly horizontally in a straight line, also called level flight, and when they dive.

Still, we will also talk about the fastest birds on land and water in this article, so running and diving (in water) are also taken into account.

For organization purposes, we divided this article into three categories: the fastest birds in the sky, on land, and in water. Enjoy!

Fastest Birds in the Sky

16. Eurasian Teal

Eurasian teal duck on water
  • Eurasian teal speed: 60 mph

Eurasian teals are one of the fastest birds in the world. They can pick up the speed up to 60 miles per hour when flying. 

Appearance-wise, the Eurasian teal can reach up to 14 inches in length. The wingspan of these birds averages 7-8 inches, and this plays a major role in their ability to fly fast. The weight of these birds can range from 12 to 13 ounces.

These birds prefer to stay in forests, shrublands, and wetlands in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

15. Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird hovering flower
  • Anna’s hummingbird speed: 61 mph

Anna’s hummingbird is a small bird that rises up about 130 feet and dives at 61 miles per hour to impress the females.

This is such a unique achievement that it is the fastest maneuver any bird in the world can do. Anna’s hummingbird diving show only lasts for 12 seconds, though.

This tiny bird can reach up to 4 inches long with a wingspan of 4.7 inches.

Anna’s hummingbird can be found in the woods, chaparrals, and gardens from Northern Mexico all the way to Alaska.

14. Common Swift

Common swift
  • Common swift speed: 69.3 mph

Common swifts are middle-sized birds with curved wings. Except when nesting, they spend their lives in the air, eating the insects caught in flight. They will literally drink, feed, often mate, and sleep while flying. 

Believe it or not, some individuals can go ten months without landing. No other bird spends as much of its life in flight.

Common swifts are recorded to be among the fastest birds in the world, reaching a flying speed of 69.3 miles per hour.

These birds are migratory, and therefore, their location often changes. They are typically found in a wide range during summer, from Siberia and China to Ireland and Portugal.

In the winter, common swifts migrate to Africa and stay in the sub-equatorial part of the continent.

13. Common Eider

Close up of a male common eider
  • Common eider speed: 76.5 mph

Common eiders are one of the fastest birds in the world that can pick up speed up to 76.5 miles per hour when flying.

They measure 19.5 to 28 inches in length, weigh up to 6.5 pounds, and span 31–43 inches across the wings.

In addition, these birds typically enjoy spending time in the rocky seacoasts and marine waters. They are mostly found in the territories of Canada, New England, and South Alaska.

12. Grey-Headed Albatross

Grey-headed albatross swimming in the sea
  • Grey-header albatross speed: 79 mph

Grey-headed albatrosses are considered to be among the fastest birds in the world. They can pick up the horizontal speed of up to 79 miles per hour.

Such speed is only possible because their 7.2 feet wingspan allows for high power use from the wind. 

They can reach up to 32 inches and can weigh between 6.2 to 9.7 pounds. 

Further out, these birds are characterized by almost black feathers on their wings and back, dark gray neck and head, and white rump and underparts.

Grey-headed albatrosses can be found on the line of Southern oceans. Mainly, they are found in the Kerguelen Islands, Georgia, and Islas Diego Ramirez. 

They like to stay on the steeps and cliffs of mud and grass.

11. Canvasback

Canvasback duck swimming in lake
  • Canvasback speed: 79.5 mph

Canvasbacks like to live in ponds, lakes, bays, and deep-water marshes. They prefer environments with water and hydration sources. Typically, these wild ducks are found in North America.

Canvasbacks have an average flight speed of 79.5 miles per hour. These birds have black beaks, chestnut red heads and necks, and grayish feet and legs. 

They have a body length of 22 inches, wingspan reaching 34 inches, and the average weight goes up to 3.5 pounds, making the canvasback the largest duck in North America.

10. Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser duck swimming on lake
  • Red-breasted merganser speed: 81 mph

Red-breasted merganser is found typically in Canada, Alaska, and New England. These diving ducks especially like to reside near the waters, boreal, and tundra forests. 

Being one of the fastest birds on earth, the red-breasted merganser can reach the flying speed of 81 miles per hour.

The red-breasted merganser is about 20-25 inches long with an average wingspan of 28-34 inches. Adults weigh about 28 to 47 ounces.

Did you know? The fastest duck ever recorded was a red-breasted merganser that attained a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour.

9. Spur-Winged Goose

Spur-winged goose landing
  • Spur-winged goose speed: 89 mph

Spur-winged geese are waterfowl found in sub-Saharan Africa. They like to stay near rivers, lakes, and seasonal pools. 

They are the largest African waterfowl and are, on average, the world’s largest wild “goose,” although in average weight, their size is at least rivaled by the Cape Barren goose.

Because of their high-speed wings, spur-winged geese can reach the speed of 89 miles per hour, which makes them one of the fastest flying birds in the world.

Adult spur-winged geese can reach a length between 30 to 45 inches, and their average weight ranges between 8.8 to 15 pounds. Males of this particular species are typically larger in size than females. The wingspan of these geese can range between 59 to 79 inches.

8. Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent frigatebird perched on tree
Magnificent frigatebird – Photo by Andrew Turner (CC BY 2.0)
  • Magnificent frigatebird speed: 95 mph

Magnificent frigatebirds are seabirds that can be found in subtropical and tropical oceans. 

Curiously, these fast birds can fly for weeks at a time, soaring in the clouds and sleeping mid-flight. Also, they prefer to catch their prey on the surface of the water, in the air, or bother other birds until they couch up their last meal.

Interestingly, magnificent frigatebirds will do all of the above while flying at an impressive speed of 95 miles per hour.

Frigatebirds can reach 45 inches in length, with females being 25 percent heavier than males. Wingspan can reach 7.5 feet.

Appearance-wise, these fast birds have long tails, dark-colored plumage, and long bills. Males have a red pouch below their beaks, which inflates during breeding.

7. Eurasian Hobby

Eurasian Hobby facing camera
  • Eurasian hobby speed: 98.7 mph

Eurasian hobbies are undoubtedly one of the fastest flying birds and can reach the speed of 98.7 miles per hour. Even at that speed, they manage to pass food mid-flight from one another.

These falcons can grow up to 10 to 14 inches in length with a wingspan of 29 to 33 inches. 

Females typically weigh more than males and vary between 6.2 to 10 ounces.

Eurasian hobbies can be found across Africa, Asia, and Europe. They prefer to live in open woodlands, savannahs, fields, and river edges.

Did you know? A group of falcons is called a cast, so a cast of falcons.

6. White-Throated Needletail

Exciting water drinking scene of White-throated Needletail
  • White-throated needletail speed: 105 mph

White-throated needletails, formerly known as spine-tailed swifts, are sizeable swift birds that were considered to be the fastest bird in the world when flying in a straight line, reportedly reaching 105 miles per hour. However, that information had never been scientifically proven.

Like the common swift, these fast birds feed mid-air, catching insects like flies, bees, and moths along the way.

White-throated needletails are migratory birds that can be found in Central Asia and southern Siberia. Yet, when migrating in winter, they reside in Southern Asia, Australia, and India.

5. Red-Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is one of the fastest birds in the world!
The red-tailed hawk is one of the fastest birds in the world!
  • Red-tailed hawk speed: 120 mph

Red-tailed hawks are the largest of their genus and weigh between 1.5 to 3.8 pounds. Also, soaring is by far the fastest flying method for these hawks since active flight is relatively slow.

When soaring or flapping their wings, these birds typically travel from 20 to 40 miles per hour, but when diving, speed may exceed 120 mph.

Red-tailed hawks are found throughout North America and parts of Central America.

They prefer staying in the woodlands, mountains, roadsides, plains, prairies, and even in the open country.

4. Gyrfalcon

A selective focus shot of gyrfalcon perched on a wooden post
  • Gyrfalcon speed: 130 mph

Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the world, and they are typically found on the tundra and the Arctic coast.

The maximum horizontal speed of the gyrfalcons (pronounced “JER-falcons”) is an average of 90 miles per hour. At the same time, they can reach 130 miles per hour when diving. 

They usually prey on birds like ptarmigan and gulls, but also mammals like shrews and marmots. They may also hunt fish.

3. Golden Eagle

Golden eagle looking around
  • Golden eagle speed: 200 mph

Golden eagles are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska to Japan. As such, they are among the most widely spread eagles. 

When hunting or displaying, golden eagles can glide very fast, reaching speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, making them the second-fastest birds in level flight.

When diving in the direction of prey or during territorial displays, these eagles hold a specific position putting their legs against their tails and their wings tight and partially closed against their body. In this position, they can reach 150 to 200 miles per hour.

They hunt ground squirrels, rabbits, and prairie dogs, among other small mammals.

2. Saker Falcon

Saker falcon in flight
  • Saker falcon speed: 200 mph

Saker falcons are large birds of prey found throughout Central Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.

Characterized by high-speed dives, these birds can reach a speed of up to 200 miles per hour when hunting. The horizontal/flight speed of these birds is an average of 93 miles per hour.

These endangered birds that patrol open grasslands feed on smaller birds and rodents. They usually hunt horizontally, and their 4 feet wingspan makes it easier.

Did you know? The saker falcon is the national bird of Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, and Mongolia.

1. Peregrine Falcon

The peregrine falcon is the fastest flying bird in the world!
The peregrine falcon is the fastest flying bird in the world!
  • Peregrine falcon speed: 240 mph

As the world’s fastest birds, peregrine falcons reach a whopping speed of 200 to 240 miles per hour when diving. Interestingly, they hit one wing on their prey, so they don’t hurt themselves during impact.

According to scientific research, the highest speed of this bird recorded is 242 miles per hour.

Peregrine falcons feed almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as pigeons, waterfowls, phasianids, songbirds, and waders.

Their preferred habitats are river valleys, mountain ranges, coastlines, and increasingly cities, where they nest on tall places like buildings, towers, and bridges.

Fastest Birds on Land

3. Emu

Emu full body
  • Emu speed: 31 mph

Ranking third on the list of the world’s fastest birds, emus are found in various habitats all over Australia. Their average height ranges from 4.9 to 6.2 feet, and they can weigh up to 132 pounds.

These are large flightless birds with strong legs, enabling them to run at speeds close to 31 miles per hour. 

They usually prefer to lead a solitary life but may form a group if needed. Their diet consists of fruits, flowers, seeds, insects, and smaller vertebrates.

2. Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) walking on grass
  • Greater rhea speed: 40 mph

The largest bird species found in South America, the greater rhea, is a flightless bird that can reach a height of around 4.9 feet in adulthood. The male birds are larger and heavier than the females and weigh close to 60 pounds.

Although they are unable to fly, rheas can run very fast and reach the speed of up to 40 miles per hour. Wings provide stability during running.

Greater rheas are omnivorous birds that feed on various fruits, seeds, leaves, lizards, insects, and even small birds. They lay golden-colored eggs, which fade and turn white with time.

1. Ostrich

The ostrich is the fastest running bird in the world!
The ostrich is the fastest running bird in the world!
  • Ostrich speed: 60 mph

Ostrich is one of the fastest running bird species. It is also the heaviest and tallest among them. They can sprint at an astonishing speed of 60 miles per hour, making them the fastest animals on land.

They are not only excellent sprinters but also great kickers. They can deliver up to 2,000 PSI of raw kicking power—that’s a strong animal!

One of the most significant reasons for these animals’ pace is they possess a springy step. Another reason they can sprint so nicely is their ‘center of gravity,’ that is, between their wings and legs. So ostriches can be pretty balanced when operating at high rates.

Fastest Birds in Water

Gentoo Penguin

The gentoo penguin is the fastest diving bird in the world!
The gentoo penguin is the fastest diving bird in the world!
  • Gentoo penguin speed: 22 mph

Gentoo penguins are the fastest diving birds in the world. While diving in the water, they can reach the speed of 22 miles per hour. They have the ability to dive 600 feet deep.

They feed on fish, squid, krill, and crustaceans within their range—The Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands.

These friendly-looking birds have white-feather caps, red-orange beaks, and peach-colored feet. 

Did you enjoy learning about the fastest birds on earth? Then share this article with your friends on social media!

Greg Zellin

Monday 29th of August 2022

Very interesting, awesome birds, love the Merganser. Eagles flying 200 mph is fantastic. I've seen them swoop down on Thier prey and they are crazy fast and powerful. Nice article.