One of the simplest ways for a predator to hunt its prey or for a preyed upon animal to escape a predator is to be very fast. This fact has not gone unnoticed in the Animal Kingdom and many different species rely on this attribute for their very survival. As a result of this there has been fierce competition in the natural world to become ever faster and faster – meaning that many animals have evolved over time so that they can now move at completely ridiculous speeds! Using the fastest speed recorded for each species, this post looks at the top 10 fastest animals on Earth and includes terrestrial animals, birds and fish…
10: Sailfish – 68mph/109kph
Sailfish, Istiophorus spp., are prized game fish that are found throughout the warmer oceans of the world.
Growing as big as 3 metres in length and weighing to be 90 kilograms, sailfish are top predators in many ocean ecosystems that mainly hunt fish and squid near to the ocean surface. The extravagant sail that gives the species its name is normally kept down when the fish is swimming, but is raised when it feels excited or threatened.
9: Eider duck – 70mph/113kph
The eider duck, Somateria mollissima., is the UK’s heaviest and fastest species of duck.
Eider ducks are found throughout the northern hemisphere and inhabit coastal regions, rarely venturing too far inland. This is mainly because their main source of food is mollusks, which are exposed on beaches during low tides.
8: Canvasback duck – 72mph/116kph
The canvasback duck, Aythya valisineria, is characterized by its long thin neck that it uses when diving to help it forage for underwater plants.
Canvasback ducks are found in North America, growing up to 22 inches long and weighing around 3.5 pounds. The ducks build their nests from mud and moss in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley in the summer, which are then abandoned during the winter as they migrate to the coasts of California.
7: Cheetah – 75mph/121kph
The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is the world’s fastest terrestrial animal and is found in most of Africa and some parts of the middle east.
The fact that the cheetah can run so fast on land has long baffled scientists until recently. This is mainly because cheetahs are cats and the most efficient skeleton that has evolved for running is the design employed by canines. Therefore, it makes sense that a dog should be the fastest land animal. Recent studies however have helped to explain this, showing that the cheetah actually has a skeletal structure that is more like that of dog than a cat – a fact that allows the animal to produce extreme bursts of speed. These sprints cannot be maintained for much further than 500 meters however, due to the huge rise in the animals core body temperature that they cause.
6: White-rumped swift – 77mph/124kph
The white-rumped swift, Apus caffer. They can be easily identified by its white rump that is of stark contrast to the rest of its plumage.
Like all swifts, the birds feed off medium to large aerial insects and are particularly active during the late afternoon when the activity of their insect prey is at its highest. The birds are migratory, spending their summers in Northern Europe and Britain and winters in sub-Saharan Africa.
5: Red-breasted merganser – 80mph/129kph
The red-breasted merganser, Mergus serrator, is a diving bird that is in the same family as sawbills.
Red-breasted mergansers can be most easily seen in the UK around coastal regions during the winter. The birds can live in freshwater as well. Their tenancy to eat salmon and trout have brought them into conflict with game and industrial fisherman alike.
4: Spur-winged goose – 88mph/142kph
The spur-winged Plectropterus gambensis, can have a wing span as large as 2 meters and can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite its name, the spur-winged goose is not a true goose. In fact, they are only distantly related to the animals that give it its name. The spur-winged goose has a few physiological differences to its cousins and is Africa’s biggest species of wildfowl.
3: Frigate bird – 95mph/153kph
There are 5 different species of the frigate bird, which belong to the genus Fregata. During spring male frigate birds inflate the gular pouch on their neck. While exposing their stunning red skin in the hopes of attracting a mate.
Frigate birds are seabirds that are related to pelicans and are sometimes called ‘Man of War or ‘Pirate Birds’. The birds primarily eat fish from deep water (in the pelagic zone). Although they have also been seen to steal food from the nests of other sea birds. Accordingly, this makes it no surprise that they are so fast!
2: Spine-tailed swift – 106mph/171kmp
The spine-tailed swift, Hirundapus caudacutus. It is a migratory bird that spends its winters in Australia and breeds during the spring mainly in Asia and Siberia. But they have been found as far north-west as Great Britain!
The spine-tailed swift, also called the White-throated needletail, is a small bird from the swift family. With its short legs, the bird cannot take off from the ground. Therefore, they nest high up in cliffs or more recently, in high human buildings. When they wish to fly, the birds simply jump off the cliff. Then gain control during their free-fall by opening their wings. Once in flight the birds hunt aerial insects. and they are in fact, the fastest bird in flapping flight. As the Peregrine falcon is only faster during its dives!
1: Peregrine falcon – 242mph/389kph
The Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus, is one of the most widespread birds of prey. And can be found across every continent that is not covered by ice.
The Peregrine is a large falcon that is about the size of a crow. The bird is a fearsome aerial predator and is renowned for its agility and unique method of hunting called stooping. The extreme speed of the bird has made it very popular as a show-bird among falconers.