In the wild, speed can be a matter of death or survival. From species living on land to birds flying in the air, there are tons of animals who compete every day to survive on this planet. The speed of an animal depends upon wind, gravity, as well as the animal size. We have been taught since our childhood that Cheetah is the fastest animal. However, this is far from the truth. Cheetah does not even stand a chance against the fastest animal on our planet. So, what is the fastest animal in the world?

Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal in the world. With their deadly dive, falcons can reach a speed of 242 mph. To achieve this dive, these large birds of prey soar at a height of 3,500 feet, and then by bringing its wings closer to its body, dive down to catch its prey. A Peregrine Falcon is faster than the strongest hurricane in the world.

  • Peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world.
  • Peregrine Falcon flying along the coastline of the White Cliffs of Dover in England
  • peregrine falcon diving down to catch his prey
  • Juvenile Peregrine Falcon in San Pedro, California

One of the most powerful birds, the Peregrine Falcon, is native to Australia and is one of the most widely found bird species. They also have the fastest visual processing speed and can spot their prey from over a kilometer away. They also have unique adaptations in their nostrils that enable them to breathe at such high altitudes. Despite being the most widely found bird species, the Peregrine Falcon was added to the US endangered species list by the IUCN. Their population started declining in the 20th century due to the widespread use of DDT and other harmful pesticides. With the help of conservation efforts and decreased use of pesticides, they were removed from the endangered list in 1999.

There are other species in the animal kingdom that are not far behind the falcon. Here are some of the fastest animals in the world:

1. Golden Eagle (150 mph)

  • Golden Eagle in Czech Republic
  • Golden eagle captured at Gilgit, Baltistan.
  • Two golden eagles in aerial conflict
  • Golden Eagle in flight

The best-known birds of prey, the Golden Eagle, is the national bird of Mexico. With a wingspan of 8 feet, these swift birds can dive at a speed of 150 mph (miles per hour), making them the second-fastest animal in the world. They are one of the most widely spread species of eagle and are found in North America, Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe. Golden eagles maintain territories that can stretch up to 60 square miles.

Golden eagles are the largest preying bird in North America. They use their speed and sharp talons to snatch up ground squirrels, rabbits, marmots, and fishes. They are even known to attack full-grown deers. These large birds are capable of carrying prey nearly 3 times their weight. Golden eagles have a strong vision and can spot their hunt from more than a mile. They can fly at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Despite their reckless hunting by ranchers, golden eagles are still found in great numbers all over Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa. 

2. White-Throated Needletail (105 mph)

  • White throated Needletail flying over northern Australia
  • White-throated needletail hunting over Volochayevka Pervaya
  • a herd of white-throated needletail

These migratory birds are native to eastern and northern Australia. They are the fastest flying bird in flapping flight, reaching a speed of 105 mph. These small birds have a wingspan of 38 cm and have robust, barrel-like bodies. White-throated needletails are aerial birds and do not like spending time on the ground. 

Also known as the storm-bird, the White-throated Needletail can stay up in the air for more than 10 months straight and holds the record for the longest uninterrupted flight. They have long, curved wings and a powerful body that helps them achieve exceptional speed in flight. They feed on flying insects like termites, ants, and beetles. They catch these insects in flight with the help of their large gaping beaks. The White-throated needletail can be found in Central Asia, Southern Siberia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Indian Subcontinent. 

3. Mexican free-tailed bat (99 mph)

  • a researcher captured a mexican free tailed bat
  • Mexican free-tailed bat in flight
  • Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken bat cave.

One of the most abundant mammals in North-America, the Mexican free-tailed bats, are nocturnal animals that are native to the United States of America. They are known to have the fastest horizontal speed for any animal, reaching up to 99 mph. They live in colonies that can range from one thousand to one million individuals. 

Also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, the Mexican free-tailed bats are average-sized, intelligent, and unique species. They can fly at altitudes over 10,000 feet, which is impossible for any other bat species. They are known for their exceptional fast flight that might be possible due to their aerodynamic body shape and longer than the average wingspan. They catch their food while flying, which mainly consists of moths, mosquitoes, and other flying insects. The Mexican free-tailed bat was officially designated as the state flying mammal of Texas in 1995.

4. Frigate bird (95 mph)

  • Male Frigate bird, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Juvenile frigate bird in flight in the Galapagos Islands
  • Male Frigate bird flying between the Galapagos islands of Santiago and Bartolome
  • Frigate bird with his chick at Boatswain Bird Island, Ascension Islands

They are large seabirds that are found across all tropical and subtropical oceans. These magnificent birds soar over the ocean, with their wings outstretched and their head drawn into the shoulders, helping them reach speeds up to 95 mph. They have long, angular wings that can span up to 2.3 meters, thus helping them reach such fast speeds. They can be found all over America.

Also known as Pirate birds, Frigate birds are aerial species that spend most of their day in flight looking for food. Despite being a seabird, they don’t dive after fish. They tend to skim the fish from the surface of the water or chase other birds forcing them to give up their recent prey. Some of the species of Frigate birds are critically endangered due to their restricted habitat and breeding.

5. Spur Winged Goose (88 mph)

  • spur winged goose is the fastest duck in the world
  • Spur winged goose in flight, Western Cape, South Africa
  • Spur winged geese at Game Lodge near bedell, South Africa
  • spur winged goose with chicks

One of the largest species of goose in the world, the Spur Winged Goose is found in the wetlands of Sub-Saharan Africa. These large birds are one of the top contenders of the fastest animal in the world, reaching speeds up to 88 mph. They have long necks and legs, with male goose much larger than the female ones. 

Spur Winged Geese is the largest waterfowl of Africa and are found in open grasslands, lakes, rivers, pools, and swamps. They are social animals and are found in small flocks with up to 50 individuals. They spend most of their time on land grazing on vegetation, aquatic plants, sedges, and fruits. With a wingspan of 2 meters, the spur-winged goose is the fastest goose in the world. 

6. Black Marlin (82 mph)

  • black marlin is the fastest fish in the world
  • Black marlin fishing above the surface of water
  • A fisherman showing off his giant prize in Kenya

One of the largest species of Marlin, the Black Marlin, is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Indian and Pacific ocean. They are the fastest fish in the animal kingdom, with speeds as high as 82 mph. They are powerful animals and are widely known for their sporting abilities. They are one of the top predators of the seas and are fished commercially. They are also a highly prized game fish. 

Also known as short-nosed swordfishes, the Black Marlin has an elongated sword-like upper jaw. These migratory fishes are found in shallow waters near shores, coral reefs, and islands. Black marlins combine their strength and their speed while preying. They feed on squids, cuttlefishes, octopus, and small tuna fishes. They use their long and sharp bills to slash their prey. Researchers predict that one of the latest bony fishes in the world might be in danger due to their excessive fishing as a sport. However, not enough data is available to determine their population and their threat category. 

7. Cheetah (80 mph)

  • Cheetah is one of the fastest animal in the world
  • the lightly built, streamlined, agile body of the cheetah makes it an efficient sprinter
  • Northwest African cheetahs at Chester zoo, United Kingdom
  • female cheetah with her cubs

One of the largest cats, the Cheetah, is native to Africa and Central Iran. They are the fastest mammal on land, reaching speeds up to 80 mph. They are small, lightweight creatures that help them maintain their balance and control during the chase. Cheetahs look very similar to leopards but can be differentiated by the bilateral, tear-drop shaped stripes on their face. 

With an average lifespan of 12 years, Cheetahs are diurnal animals that usually hunt during dawn or dusk. They have several adaptations for their speed including, long thin legs, a long tail, and a light-build body. They use their lightning-fast speed to catch their prey on the ground. They also have an excellent sight that helps them spot their hunt from a distance. Cheetahs were once found all over Asia and Africa but are now racing towards extinction. With the loss of habitat and the declining numbers of prey, Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN red list of threatened species. There are only 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild, with their population continuously decreasing. 

8. Red-breasted Merganser (80 mph)

  • A male Red-breasted Merganser at Keyport, New Jersey
  • female red-breasted merganser searching for prey in Oceanville, New Jersey.
  • Female Red-breasted Merganser in Ontario, Canada
  • A pair of red-breasted Merganser spotted in Buffalo grove, Illinois

One of the fastest flying duck, the red-breasted Merganser is one of the top contenders of the fastest animal in the world. These diving ducks can clock speeds up to 80 mph. They can usually be found in freshwater lakes and rivers across North America, Greenland, and Europe. They have a spiky crest with a long thin red bill and segregated edges. 

Also known as the Sawbill, the Red-breasted Merganser is a shaggy-headed diving duck. They have a wingspan of 82 cm that helps them achieve such fast flying speed. The Red-breasted Merganser usually dives and swim underwater in search of food. They eat frogs, aquatic insects, and small fishes. They spend 4 to 5 hours every day diving 300 times in search of food. These social birds are common and have had a stable population since 1966.

9. Pronghorn (55 mph)

  • adult male pronghorn in Oregon
  • Young pronghorn buck near Pinedale, Wyoming
  • Adult female Pronghorn in Wyoming
  • Pronghorn herd, Yellowstone National Park

Also known as the American antelope, the Pronghorn is indigenous to interior western and central North America. They are one of the fastest animals in North America, running at a speed of more than 55 mph. They are the only living member of their family and, it has been in North America for over a million years. There are about 3 feet tall with white stripes on their throat. 

Pronghorns are attractive creatures with impressive, backward-curving horns. Their horns are covered by a sheath made of stiff hair-like material. They are the only animal that sheds the outer sheath of its horns every year. They are herd animals that live in brushlands, grasslands, and deserts. Pronghorns use their speed to escape from their predators since they live in open areas with no places to hide. A pronghorn can run long distances at a continuous pace of 40 miles per hour, keeping its mouth open to breathe extra oxygen. They are active in the day as well as the night, with eyesight sharp enough to spot predators from 4 miles away.

10. Wildebeest (50 mph)

  • A pair of Wildebeest at Krugersdorp Game Reserve, South Africa.
  • A herd of Wildebeest running away
  • Wildebeest in Masai Mara during the great migration
  • Wildebeest herding in the Serengeti National Park

Also known as the Gnu, the Wildebeest are native to Africa. They were first discovered about a million years ago. They are one of the fastest land animals, clocking speeds up to 50 mph. They migrate annually in search of new pastures. They can be spotted from a distance with their big head, pointy beard, and sharp, curved horns.   

Wildebeests are a member of the antelope family but have a much heavier built. They are herd animals that graze continuously throughout day and night. Despite their large stature, they are fast runners so that they can protect themselves from their predators. They are known for their spectacular northward migration, including up to 1.5 million individuals. Wildebeests are found in open woodlands and grassy plains of central, southern, and eastern Africa.

8.7 million species inhabit the world. While some are big, others are small, some are fast and, some are slow, but one thing that is common among all of them is that we live on the same planet and breathe the same air. Some species can be found almost everywhere in the world, and some are struggling to survive. Different animals use different tactics to survive on this planet. While some use their speed to escape, others use their pace to hunt down their prey. 

Did we miss out on any of the fastest animals that inhabit our planet? Do let us know in the comments below.