From my exposure to falconry I learned Peregrine Falcons can attain speeds of 300 miles an hour or more while in a dive pursuing prey. But what about getting from point a to b? How fast & long can a bird really fly before needing to land?
me training Tommy a 3 year old (at the time) peregrine falcon
As it turns out a European species called the “Great Snipe” holds the nonstop speed record for all birds traveling major distances. One country they begin their journey from is Poland (if you’re planning a bird watching trip there).
We’re not sure if the Arctic tern racks up mileage rewards for the 50,000 miles (80,000 km) it covers every year as they go from basically the North Pole to the South Pole and back again. But they take their time and spend a lot of time fishing along the way (probably sampling the local beer).
Snipes on the other hand have been found to fly from Sweden to sub-Saharan Africa (think Egypt) nonstop as in zero rest in two days (tracked by scientists armed with scientific Snipe tracking apparatus) . That my friends is 4200 miles (6760 km) meaning these feathered flying machines are cruising at a mile a minute (97 km an hour) for 48 hours without stopping at a “Flying J” (bird/trucker joke).
They don’t look like they’re very aerodynamic birds but that’s because they get so plump in the fall storing valuable and necessary fat for these whirlwind flights. It’s been noted that they literally double their body weight prior to the migration. Urban legend has it that when shot by a hunter their bodies explode hitting the ground because their skin is so tight.
What’s even more amazing is the path they take offers ample rest stops which Snipes choose to ignore, one more anomaly in nature that baffles scientists.
the snipe is not an impressive looking bird
Chalk it up to birds get more amazing every day.
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing