The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is the fastest known animal!
They ambush prey by diving in from great heights and at incredible speed; during this “stoop”, they can reach well over 200 mph (322 km/h). In order to achieve such speeds they have a few specialized adaptations. One is a bony projection inside the nostril that acts as a baffle, disrupting the air flow and reducing air pressure, making it easier for the bird to breathe.
They use their third eyelid - the clear nictitating membrane present in many animals - to keep the eye free of debris and protect it from the powerful wind. The black cheeks help reduce glare from sunlight and water so they can better target their prey.
They almost exclusively feed on medium-sized birds which they catch in flight; to avoid injuring themselves from the high-speed impact, the falcons target one of the prey’s wings. Peregrines have one of the most diverse diets of all raptors, with over 300 species of North American birds having fallen prey to them.
They are also among the most adaptable of our raptors and have readily settled into cities where high-rises appeal to their cliff-nesting preferences and pigeons offer an excellent source of food, often making up 80% of an urban Peregrine’s diet.
photograph by budgora on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)