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How fast can the peregrine falcon fly?

Sent in by William S. Blackwell, Bedworth, Warwickshire

The peregrine falcon is arguably the fastest bird in the sky. Its streamlined body, powerful muscles and swept-back wing shape are perfect for fast flight.

During level flight, with motion generated by wing-beats alone, they can reach speeds between 40-60 mph. This is one of the fastest known speeds for level flight with only a few species of duck, wader and pigeon known to reach similar speeds in comparable flight.

Most species of wild bird will have many different flying styles which they use in different situations. Birds will reach different speeds during these different flight styles. Migrating birds will often have a fast and steady rhythm, often using the wind to assist them. General flight will be more pedestrian whilst display flights and predator prey interactions can result in short sharp bursts of fast flight. It is during aerial pursuit where extremely fast speeds are reached by both predator and prey and this is where the peregrine is in a league of its own.

Birds of prey often use a controlled dive known as a stoop whilst hunting. This hunting technique is amongst the most spectacular of wildlife behaviour across the animal kingdom.

The actual speed that a peregrine reaches in a stoop will be effected by the wind speed and duration of the dive, which will vary in every situation. Because of these variables there is not a confirmed top speed however it is thought that it is possible for a peregrine in ideal conditions to reach speeds of up to 200 mph which is phenomenal.

The forces that the peregrine is exposed to during a stoop are mind boggling. What makes it even more fascinating is that at the end of the stoop, this unique raptor is still able to deliver a controlled blow and to carry away the unfortunate victim.

Find out where you can see peregrines here

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