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The 10 Fastest Animals in North America

North America is a continent that boasts a wide array of ecosystems, each supporting unique and fascinating wildlife.

Among these creatures, some stand out for their incredible speed, an attribute that serves various purposes, from evading predators to capturing prey.

Here’s a closer look at the ten fastest native animals in North America, highlighting their speeds, habitats, and the remarkable adaptations that enable their swift movements.

Quick Overview

RankNameSpeed
1Peregrine Falcon240 mph (386 km/h)
2Bald Eagle100 mph (160 km/h)
3Anna’s Hummingbird61 mph (98 km/h)
4Pronghorn60 mph (96 km/h)
5Quarter Horse55 mph (88 km/h)
6Mountain Lion50 mph (80 km/h)
7Elk45 mph (72 km/h)
8Mule Deer45 mph (72 km/h)
9Coyote40 mph (64 km/h)
10Jackrabbit40 mph (64 km/h)

1. Peregrine Falcon

A Peregrine Falcon perched on a rock
A Peregrine Falcon perched on a rock © hstiver/istockphoto

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is not just the fastest bird in North America but the fastest animal in the world when diving, reaching speeds of up to 240 mph (386 km/h).

This astonishing velocity allows it to swoop down on other birds with deadly precision. Peregrine Falcons are found across diverse North American habitats, from urban cities where they nest on skyscrapers to vast open landscapes.

Their incredible speed is facilitated by their streamlined bodies, powerful wing muscles, and keen eyesight, making them unparalleled hunters of the sky.

2. Bald Eagle

Natural scene from shore of lake Michigan
Natural scene from shore of lake Michigan © Karel Bock/istockphoto

Symbolic of American wilderness, the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) can dive at speeds up to 100 mph (160 km/h) to catch its prey, primarily fish. These majestic birds are found near lakes, rivers, and coastal areas across North America.

Bald Eagles have large wingspans, up to 7 feet (2.1 meters), allowing them to soar high and dive steeply with great speed. Their keen vision complements their flying capabilities, enabling them to spot fish from great heights.

3. Anna’s Hummingbird

Annas Hummingbird in mid flight
Annas Hummingbird in mid flight © NaturesDisplay/istockphoto

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), remarkable for its agility and speed, can dive at speeds of up to 61 mph (98 km/h). This small bird is capable of both rapid forward flight and hovering, thanks to its incredibly fast wing beats.

Found along the Pacific Coast, Anna’s Hummingbird is a vital pollinator, feeding on nectar from flowers. Their vibrant green and pink plumage is a beautiful sight in gardens and wild areas.

4. Pronghorn

pronghorn antelope in the wild
pronghorn antelope in the wild © rpbirdman/istockpho

The Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is the fastest land mammal in North America, capable of reaching speeds up to 60 mph (96 km/h) and maintaining high speeds for miles. Unlike other fast animals, Pronghorns have evolved their speed to escape now-extinct predators.

They inhabit the open plains and deserts of the western United States and Canada, where their incredible speed and endurance are key to their survival. Pronghorns possess large eyes with a wide field of vision, helping them spot predators from afar.

5. Quarter Horse

Quarter Horse run free in meadow frontal view
Quarter Horse run free in meadow frontal view © anjajuli/istockpho

The American Quarter Horse is renowned for its acceleration, reaching speeds up to 55 mph (88 km/h) over short distances. This breed gets its name from its unmatched speed in quarter-mile races.

Quarter Horses have a compact body, muscular hindquarters, and a broad chest, making them agile runners. They are versatile, used in rodeos, on ranches, and in competitive racing, showcasing their speed and agility.

6. Mountain Lion

Puma Concolor (Cougar)
Puma Concolor (Cougar) © SandmanXX/istockpho

Also known as cougars, Mountain Lions (Puma concolor) are capable of running at speeds up to 50 mph (80 km/h) in short bursts. These solitary predators are highly adaptable, found in various environments across North America, from Canadian forests to the swamps of Florida.

Mountain Lions use their speed primarily for ambushing prey, relying on a combination of stealth, power, and quick bursts of speed to catch deer, elk, and other animals.

7. Elk

Bull Elk bugling
Bull Elk bugling ©Wesley Aston/Shutterstock

Elks (Cervus canadensis) are among the largest members of the deer family and can run at speeds of 45 mph (72 km/h). These majestic animals are found in forests and grasslands across North America.

Elks use their speed to escape predators and during their seasonal migrations. They are social animals, often moving in herds, which can help protect them from predators.

8. Mule Deer

Mule deer buck foraging in the Plains after a snowfall
Mule deer buck foraging in the Plains after a snowfall © Kerry Hargrove/istockpho

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are capable of running at speeds up to 45 mph (72 km/h). Named for their large, mule-like ears, these deer are excellent jumpers and swimmers, which, combined with their speed, helps them evade predators.

Mule Deer are widespread across the western United States, adapting to a variety of habitats from dense forests to arid deserts.

9. Coyote

A wild coyote out in nature
A wild coyote out in nature © graphicphoto/istockpho

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are known for their adaptability and intelligence, but they are also surprisingly fast, capable of running at speeds of 40 mph (64 km/h). These canids use their speed to hunt small prey and evade larger predators.

Coyotes have a broad range across North America, thriving in both rural and urban environments. Their slender, lightweight bodies and long legs are well-suited for fast running and endurance.

10. Jackrabbit

black-tailed jackrabbit
black-tailed jackrabbit © wikipedia

The Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), a large species of hare, can reach speeds of 40 mph (64 km/h). These animals are built for speed, with long, powerful hind legs and large ears that help with thermoregulation.

Jackrabbits use their speed to escape predators in the open deserts and plains where they live. Their ability to change direction quickly and leap long distances helps them evade capture.

Conclusion

The fastest animals of North America demonstrate the incredible adaptations and evolutionary strategies that have enabled them to survive and thrive.

From the sky-dominant Peregrine Falcon to the swift Pronghorn on the plains and the agile Anna’s Hummingbird flitting among flowers, speed serves as a crucial tool for hunting, evading predators, and navigating their environments.

These animals not only captivate us with their speed and grace but also remind us of the importance of preserving the natural habitats that support their existence and the broader ecosystem’s health.

FAQs

What is the fastest animal in North America?

The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal in North America, reaching speeds of up to 240 mph (386 km/h) during its dive.

Which is the fastest land animal in North America?

The Pronghorn is the fastest land animal in North America, capable of running at speeds up to 60 mph (96 km/h).

Can the Bald Eagle dive faster than the Anna’s Hummingbird can fly?

Yes, the Bald Eagle can dive at speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h), which is faster than the Anna’s Hummingbird’s dive speed of 61 mph (98 km/h).

Which is faster, an Elk or a Mule Deer?

Both Elk and Mule Deer can reach similar speeds of up to 45 mph (72 km/h).

Is the Anna’s Hummingbird the fastest bird in terms of level flight?

While the Anna’s Hummingbird is incredibly fast, especially in a dive, the fastest level flight speed record belongs to other species, such as the Common Swift. However, Anna’s Hummingbird is notable for its agility and speed during courtship dives.

Are Mountain Lions faster than Coyotes?

Yes, Mountain Lions can reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), while Coyotes can run up to 43 mph (69 km/h).

How do Pronghorns compare to Cheetahs in terms of speed?

Pronghorns can run up to 60 mph (96 km/h), making them the second-fastest land mammal behind Cheetahs, which can reach speeds of 75 mph (120 km/h).

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