When you are asked which is the fastest animal on earth, you would probably think about cheetah. No doubt about it as it can run at speeds upto more than 100 kmph. But if you look up into the sky and observe carefully, you will find an aerial acrobat than can achieve speeds nore than thrice the speed of cheetah. With it's powerful chest muscles, long wingspan and streamlined shape the Peregrine Falcon is truly built for its staggering and breath taking speed.
The Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine falcons are found on every continent except Antarctica. These are widespread birds in the world only not to be found on isolated islands, high mountains, expansive deserts and jungles. Although this bird is difficult to spot sitting still at one place, they can be recognised by their bluish-gray backs and similarly colored long, pointed wings, as well as the white and black spots on their bellies. They also have black stripes set against their whitish faces, which resemble mustaches.
How do peregrine falcons fly so fast?
Speed of Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine falcons are flying machines and there is no point denying that. They have number of adaptations which have resulted in earning them the reputation of being Aerial Acrobats. Their light hollow bones, streamlined feathers, curved wings and strong chest muscles are just a few of the tools that help these birds gain high speeds.
Many different species of birds are known today. Some of them are categorised according to their flying speeds as gliders, some of them as flappers and even some who reach jet like speeds. The avergae bird travels at a speed of about 19 to 37mph(30 to 60 kph), but the peregrine falcon's speed varies between 40 to 60 mph(64 to 97 kph). But when it's show time the peregrine falcons really showup with achieving speed more than thrice ranging upto 200 mph(upto 322 kph).
The streamlined bodies of peregrine falcons encounter almost zero resistance in the air, enabling them to reach speeds of 200 mph (322 kph).
But what factors make these birds fly so fast?
As far as peregrine falcon speed is concerned, a major advantage is the size of its keel. A bird's keel is located at its breastbone, or sternum. As the place of attachment for major flight muscles, it determines the bird's flying ability. Peregrine falcons have especially powerful flight muscles that power their wings to dizzying speeds.Attached to those large flight muscles is another bonus: pointed wings with slim, stiff, unslotted feathers, which create the streamlined silhouette of a peregrine's body. When some birds rush up against air in flight, they experience drag due to the wind pulling on their loose feathers or broad wings.
Of course, being able to fly fast means nothing if your heart and lungs can't keep up. That's where the peregrine's aerobic fitness comes in. A bird gets its flight power from the metabolic activity in its muscle fibers. Red muscle fibers, designed to increase oxygen uptake, enable birds to efficiently metabolize energy and maintain prolonged flight, while white muscle fibers fatigue rather quickly. Not only do peregrine falcons have ample red muscle fibers, but their large, strong hearts and highly efficient lungs and air sacs keep their muscles fueled with oxygen. Other birds can't even breathe when flying ats speeds half as fast.