Kent Smith, of Ardgowan School, asks :-

How fast can the fastest bird in the world fly?

Geoff Tunnicliffe, an ornathologist at the Canterbury Museum, responded.

No bird in the world is better equipped for capturing birds in flight than the Peregrine Falcon, whose pointed wings and streamlined body can put it into a power dive estimated to reach 354 kilometres per hour. Their precision flying is scarely to be equalled by any other bird.

The Perigrene Falcon and its relatives are found world wide. Falcons are medium sized, have moderate to long tails, short strong feet with sharp curved claws, hooked bills and remarkable powers of sight. Peregrines hunt only in open country in which they can keep their flying quarry in view. This explains why falconry, as a sport, never caught on in wooded eastern North America like it has in the open country of North England and Scotland.

In the 1950s and 1960s in most of its range the Peregrine Falcon was much reduced in numbers by DDT and other pesticides. In several countries Peregrines sometimes live in towns on tall buildings attracted to domestic pigeons which they capture for food.

Flight speeds of birds have been measured many times. Most small birds seldon exceed 48 kilometres per hour although swallows and starlings are much faster. Migrating birds cruise at 48 to 64 kilometres per hour, shore birds average between 64 and 80 kilometres per hour and ducks travel at 80 to 96 kilometres per hour.