"Peregrinus" is the Latin word for "traveler," a fitting moniker given that the raptors can migrate up to 15,550 miles (25,000 kilometers) in a roundtrip — one of the longest migrations in North America, according to the Nature Conservancy (opens in new tab) Indeed, peregrine falcons are global birds, found on every continent except Antarctica, the National Wildlife Federation noted (opens in new tab).
When they find a target, they plummet at high speeds, attacking with a clenched foot to stun or kill prey with the impact, Hein van Grouw, senior curator of London's Natural History Museum's bird group, told Live Science in an email.
During a dive — known as a stoop — a peregrine is estimated to reach speeds of up to about 200 mph (320 km/h), according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A (opens in new tab), which not only make peregrines the world's fastest birds but also the world's fastest animals, Britannica noted (opens in new tab).Experimental dives suggested that peregrines may even reach speeds of up to 242 mph (389 km/h), according to Guinness World Records (opens in new tab).
This shape reduces the amount of drag they experience from the air, which helps peregrines fly quickly, Ed Drewitt, a zoologist and peregrine falcon researcher based in the United Kingdom and author of "Urban Peregrines (opens in new tab)" (Pelagic Publishing, 2014) told Live Science in an email.The peregrine falcon's breakneck speed helps it hunt — mostly other birds, ranging from prey as small as hummingbirds to as large as sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis), according to the National Wildlife Federation?In fact, while peregrines are the fastest animals to move through the air when they dive, a bat claims the prize as the fastest flying creature on record.
Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are the world's fastest known fliers, clocking speeds up to 100 mph (160 km/h), Live Science previously reported.
That's fast compared with the peregrine falcon's flying speeds, which average 25 to 34 mph (40 to 55 km/h) in traveling flight and 69 mph (112 km/h) while pursuing prey, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (opens in new tab). .
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