Indiana is a midwestern state popular for producing basketball stars and car racing. But the Hoosier State also has an exceptionally diverse biome with many ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and prairies. You may be surprised to know that the state contains an abundance of wildlife in rural, suburban, and urban areas, with some that can outrun an Olympic sprinter! Discover the fastest animals in Indiana, including where they live and why they are so speedy.
Northern bobwhite quails are ground-dwelling birds native to North America. These birds live predominately in the southeastern and southwestern portions of Indiana, where they inhabit open areas like grasslands with brush and young trees. When they become startled, they take off in the underbrush, running 12 miles per hour. But their flying speeds are really impressive, reaching up to 50 mph almost immediately. Northern bobwhite quails have short, cupped wings, perfect for flying short distances quickly. Once they reach their max rate, they set their wings and glide the rest of the way to their destination.
Belted kingfishers are stocky birds with a shaggy mohawk native to North America. You can find these migratory birds in Indiana during spring and summer, inhabiting any area with open water, like streams and lakes. The fastest clocked speed of the belted kingfisher was 36 miles per hour during steady, level flight. However, these birds may be faster when diving into the water for their prey. They rapidly beat their wings, allowing their bodies to hover, and they are top-heavy with pointed beaks that propel them while diving. These little birds can get so fast they are difficult to capture in photographs!
The walleye, also known as the yellow pike, is a freshwater fish native to Canada and the northern United States. Indiana regularly stocks their rivers, lakes, and reservoirs with walleye, a popular game fish for anglers. While it’s uncertain just how fast these fish can swim, it’s estimated they can reach up to 50 miles per hour in short bursts. But their primary speed hovers around 3.5 miles per hour, which is more like a light jog for humans. They can reach their max speeds when fleeing danger, typically when they become startled.
Swamp rabbits, also known as cane cutters, are large rabbits native to the southern United States, where they inhabit swamps and wetlands. These rabbits were once found throughout Indiana in urban and suburban areas, but they are now listed as endangered and rare in the state. Swamp rabbits can run up to 28 miles per hour and typically reach these speeds when outrunning predators, making a distinct zig-zag pattern through their marsh habitat. Their hind legs propel them forward quickly from a standing position, allowing them to change directions to escape and confuse advancing animals.
Black bears are endemic to North America and are the continent’s smallest and most widely distributed bear species. They were once abundant across Indiana, except for the prairie regions, but today only the occasional straggler wanders into the state’s borders. Black bears may be smaller than most other species, but males can still reach over 600 pounds. You may not believe that something so heavy could move so fast, but these animals can run up to 35 miles per hour. Their bodies look fluffy, but they have powerful muscles that move them forward at intense speeds. If you’re wondering whether a human could outrun a black bear, the answer is no. The fastest human on earth can only run up to 28 miles per hour, and the average person can only run around 8 mph.
Cardinals are brightly colored passerine birds endemic to the Americas and are the state bird for Indiana. These red birds are common throughout the state, where they remain year-round. Their population is most abundant in Central Indiana, and you can often find them nesting in thickets. Cardinals may not be killer diving birds like eagles and hawks, but they can still reach imposing speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They live in their habitats year-round, so they don’t need quick speeds for migration. But these birds often flit from one thicket to another in search of food. They will also quickly take to the air when chasing away intruders.
Badgers are feisty mammals from the weasel family, featuring squat bodies and short legs. They have been reported in almost every county of Indiana, but their populations are more concentrated in the state’s northern half. These creatures are known for being aggressive when provoked. However, most human interactions with badgers are pretty neutral. It’s best to be on the safe side, though, because a badger can run up to 19 miles per hour for long durations, easily outpacing a human. They typically use their speed for hunting alongside coyotes or scurrying away from potential threats.