What is the fastest animal on earth? There are lots of contenders for the top spot of fastest animal on earth. From birds to mammals, reptiles to fish, animals come in all shapes and sizes, and they all move in different ways.
On land, the cheetah can comfortably cruise for short distances at 70 miles per hour, whereas its prey, the gazelle, can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour—which puts it at something of a disadvantage! But these two species are not the fastest animals in the world; that honor goes to another animal.
What is the fastest animal in the world?
Although the cheetah is the fastest animal on land, it is not the fastest animal on the earth by a long stretch. Up until very recently this was widely believed to be the peregrine falcon, which is capable of diving at almost two hundred miles per hour in pursuit of its prey—almost three times faster than a cheetah. This phenomenal turn of speed allows the peregrine falcon to hunt other flying birds in the air and it is one of the most successful birds of prey in the world.
But even with speeds clocked at 200 miles per hour, the peregrine falcon is not the fastest bird. That honor, somewhat surprisingly, goes to the humble little Anna’s Hummingbird.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are native to North America and were named during the 19th century after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli. Weighing less than five grams, this tiny bird usually flies at a fairly modest speed of around 33 miles per hour, but during the mating season, the male Anna’s Hummingbird launches itself into a spectacular courtship dive.
The full throttle dive is triggered when a female humming bird passes into the male’s territory. In an attempt to impress the lady Anna’s Hummingbird, the male shoots up into the air before catapulting himself back down. At the end of the dive, the male’s tail feathers emit a loud squeak.
Researchers used cameras to film the male hummingbirds dive from more than 100 feet in the air. They discovered that the birds flew at 385 “body lengths per second”, which is faster than the recorded speeds of the previous record holder, the peregrine falcon. This amazing burst of speed is also faster than a jet plane with its afterburners on, traveling at 150 body lengths per second, and even faster than the space shuttle traveling at 207 body lengths per second during atmospheric re-entry!
When the hummingbird screeches to a halt at the end of the dive, it is subjected to forces that are ten times greater than the pull of gravity. This is more than experienced jet pilots can endure without losing consciousness, which makes the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird a truly amazing feat of nature.
So now you know: the fastest animal on earth is a tiny little hummingbird bird that is capable of reaching amazing speeds not to catch prey or escape predators, but simply to impress the ladies!