What speedy species are zipping around Maryland?
Maryland is teeming with wildlife. There are an estimated 90 species of mammals, 93 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 400 species of birds. There are also several hundred species of freshwater and marine fish.
While some of these creatures like to laze about, others are built for speed! This article will highlight a few of the fastest creatures living throughout the state. What are some of the fastest animals in Maryland? Read on to find out.
Peregrine falcons can fly 69 mph when directly pursuing prey and 240 mph when stooping. They’re one of the fastest animals in Maryland and the fastest creature in the animal kingdom.
If you’re by a body of water in Maryland, keep your eyes open for a peregrine falcon. They’re common throughout the state; some even stay year-round.
Peregrines spend a lot of their time hunting. Dawn and dusk are the most popular hunting hours. These falcons dine on feral pigeons, blackbirds, black-headed gulls, rabbits, and other smaller birds or mammals.
Using their fast speed, peregrine falcons will stun their prey by hitting it. After disorienting the prey, they can swoop and grab it as it falls. If the animal they’re targeting is too heavy to carry, the falcon will let it fall to the ground. Once it’s on the ground, they can enjoy their meal there.
Along with the peregrine falcon, Maryland is also home to the Merlin and the American kestrel. One of the best ways to tell the peregrine falcon apart from the other birds of prey is by looking at their size and color. Peregrines are much larger than most birds, with a blue-gray coloration on their top wings. The underside is usually white or whitish-yellow with gray or black bar markings.
One of North America’s most successful raptors lives in Maryland, the red-tailed hawk. These hawks can fly 20 to 40 mph at regular speed and up to 120 mph when diving, making them one of the fastest animals in Maryland.
Red-tailed hawks are known to be aggressive predators who can dine on as many as three chipmunks per day. They also eat birds, reptiles, insects, and fish. Finding prey is easy since they can spot animals 100 feet away.
You won’t have any trouble spotting a red-tailed hawk in Maryland. They’re one of the most common hawk species throughout the state. Whether hiking through the forest or strolling through the city, there might be a red-tailed hawk flying nearby or perching on a tree.
If you see a perching hawk, notice its body language. A submissive red-tailed hawk flattens its feathers and holds its head low. In contrast, aggressive red-tails have an upright posture, with the heads held high.
Maryland is home to the bald eagle, a bird of prey that can reach speeds of 99 miles per hour. Bald eagles reserve these top speeds for diving. When they’re not hunting prey, you can see these massive birds soaring through the sky with ease at around 30 mph.
At a distance, people sometimes mistake red-tailed hawks for bald eagles. However, you can tell these two birds apart by looking at their size. Bald eagles have an impressive wingspan, larger than great blue herons. At the same time, red-tailed hawks have shorter wingspans and smaller heads.
Bald eagles are another one of the fastest animals in Maryland you can find all year round. There are an estimated 3,000 breeding pairs, and the numbers continue to grow.
Golden eagles are another one of Maryland’s fastest and largest birds of prey. These eagles can reach astonishing speeds of 200 mph when stooping for prey, clearly emphasizing why it is listed as one of the fastest animals in Maryland. When they’re not diving for prey, golden eagles like gliding at about 30 mph.
Golden eagles are expert hunters, and they usually work in pairs. One of the eagles will chase the prey to its partner. Then they can work together to use their sharp talons to kill the animal. Some of their favorite meals include mice, foxes, and even dear.
It can be difficult to spot a golden eagle in Maryland since they’re scarce. Spring and fall are the best times to see one along the western Maryland ridges. This is the time of year the golden eagle is in the late stages of its fall migration.
The coast of Maryland is home to the fastest fish in the ocean, the blue marlin. The blue marlin can reach speeds of 68 mph and has an average speed of 50 mph. These fish are big too! They can weigh over 1,985 lb and grow 14 feet long.
Blue marlins are close relatives of the swordfish, one of the world’s biggest fish species. Females can live as long as 27 years, and males can reach 18 years. That gives these fish much time to grow in the ocean steps.
The blue marlin is built for speed. They have 24 vertebrae and streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies. These fish don’t have anything unnecessary sticking up that could cause turbulence. Their long narrow anatomy helps minimize drag while propelling them through the water.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alexey Struyskiy/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.