Swifts may be swift but bats beat 'em hands, er, wings down, according to a scientific study that shows those furry mice can go like bats outta hell.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany have discovered that not only are bats surprisingly fast fliers, they actually outperform the fastest birds. Mind you, not ALL bats can wing it with the best – the researchers focused on the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) due to the creatures' long and narrow wings.
Determining a bat's midair speed with a high degree of accuracy isn't a simple proposition: the researchers attached tiny radio transmitters to the backs of several bats and measured the signals from a Cessna airplane equipped with a mobile receiver. “Initially, we could hardly believe our data, but they were correct,” explained Kamran Safi, a computational ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology. “At times, the female bats... flew at speeds of over 160 kilometers per hour (about 100mph).”
It's always been assumed birds are the fastest fliers – the Peregrine Falcon, for instance, can reach speeds of up to 300kph (185mph) in a dive. The Common Swift (Apus apus), long thought to be the world's fastest bird, can reach speeds of 110 kph (68mph) in horizontal flight but they can't hold a candle to the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat. By the way, we don't recommend holding a candle to ANY bat, that would be cruel.