Built for Speed

As an admirer of birds of prey, I was a bit disappointed when the peregrine falcon video didn’t load the other day in class. So, I decided to look up a few videos for myself that could capture the remarkable speed of this amazing animal. Sure enough, there are several, and in every single one the bird is estimated to be reaching speeds well over 180 mph. This led me to wonder, what aspects of a peregrine falcon’s physiology allow it to move at speeds comparable to even the fastest race cars in the world? Here’s what I found.

First of all, the peregrine falcon has an especially large keel. A bird’s keel is located at its sternum, and is where its major flight muscles are attached. The size of the peregrine falcon’s keel account for its extraordinarily powerful flight muscles, which allow the bird to operate its wings at very high speeds. Not only are the muscles powering the wings remarkably strong, but the wings themselves are designed for optimal swiftness. A peregrine falcon has pointed wings with thin, rigged, unslotted feathers. These features limit the drag experienced in flight by birds equipped with broader wings, or those with loose feathers.

While other birds can’t even breathe at speeds close to 200 mph, a peregrine falcon’s aerobic fitness allow it do so with apparent ease. It has an abundance of red muscle fibers, resulting in increased oxygen uptake and consequential prolonged, powerful flight. In addition, it has incredibly efficient cardiovascular and respiratory systems that constantly keep its muscles fueled with oxygen. The peregrine falcon’s sleek, bullet-like build, combines with its suberb endurance, make it an animal indisputably built for speed.

Here’s the link to the article where I got this information:


And here’s a cool video all about the flight of the peregrine falcon:


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2 Responses to Built for Speed

  1. froglady froglady says:

    Thanks for this post and links! Frightful the falcon went 242 mph!! Wow! One thing the scientists commented on was how she was able to hold her position. That takes a lot of muscle control and strength, just as straight out flying does.

  2. clapperclawed-champ says:

    I too am an admirer of prey and enjoyed seeing all of those animal clips last class. It is especially interesting to see animals that push the extremes of what an organism can do such as the peregrine falcon. This bird uses an incredibly aerodynamic form to reduce its terminal velocity and achieve speeds that rival the fastest cars.

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