Fastest bird in level flight
Gray-headed albatross
127 kilometre(s) per hour
Antarctica (Antarctica)

It’s not a plane – it’s a bird!

In a 2004 report published by French and British researchers working in the sub-Antarctic, the mean estimated groundspeed recorded for a satellite-tagged, grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma) hit 127 km/h (78.9 mph).

The albatross sustained this speed for more than 8 hours while returning to its nest at Bird Island, South Georgia, in the middle of an Antarctic storm.

The report was published by the Paulo Catry, Richard A. Phillips and John P. Croxall of the British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environmental Research Council (The Auk 121(4):1208-1213, 2004).

Also known as the grey-headed mollymawk, the albatross nests in very southerly locations and feeds farther south than any other bird of its kind.

According to “Bird Families of the World,” the grey-headed albatross averages 81 cm (32 in) long and possesses a 2.2 m (7 ft 2 in) wingspan. The species can range in weight from 2.8 to 4.4 kg (6.2 to 9.7 lb), with an average mass of 3.65 kg (8.0 lb).

As of 2006, the largest concentration of the grey-headed albatross was in fact on South Georgia island, with 46,000 documented pairs.