The Peregrine Falcon Is the World’s Fastest Animal

People will probably say cheetah is the fastest animal on Earth. The cheetah can outpace any terrestrial animal at 80 mph, but the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is far faster. Learn about these magnificent birds of prey and how swift they are.

It can reach 70 mph (112 kph) when hunting prey on the level. Its normal flight speed is over 30 mph (48 kph). That's impressive, but not enough to be the world's fastest mammal.

Stoops, or hunting dives, by peregrine falcons outpace the competitors. Birds fly as high as.62 miles (1 km) above the earth. Then it rotates and plunges straight down, folding its wings for optimal aerodynamics.

This raptor can dive at 200 mph (320 kph). That matches the average NASCAR racer's top speed!

This falcon is crow-sized. Its body is 14–19 inches long and its wingspan 39–43 inches. Both sexes are slate-colored blue gray with barred white underparts. Males are smaller.

Adults have a white breast patch under their chins, while juveniles are strongly streaked underside with bars reaching the head and tail.

Alarmed peregrine falcons call “kak-kak-kak” harshly. Other than that, these birds are quiet like great hunters.

Every continent except Antarctica has this spectacular raptor, so birders can see it. Even if peregrine falcons don't breed or winter in your area, you may see one during its seasonal migration. Although “peregrine” means “wanderer,” they do just that.

Northern North America, via the Rocky Mountains to Mexico, is where they breed. They nest and reside year-round on cliffs around the West and East Coasts, Appalachians, and a few midwest locations. Many migratory peregrine falcons winter in the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, or Mexico.