Monday, 25 July 2011

Devil Birds.

A bird about which a volume of books would have to be written to cover anything like the story of this truly amazing creature with wings. But here is a fraction of the many things making this bird remarkable, these are a few of the 'bits' I know about  it.

Swift. Simon Hawtin 

The Swift  - historically known as Devil Birds - must be one of the most fascinating and mysterious birds to visit these shores, a bird which for centuries has lived in close proximity to man, nesting under the roofs of our houses. Yet little is known about this bird which spends its entire life on the wing and flying literally miles measured in millions in a lifetime to the exclusion of the breeding season when they are hidden away in their dark nests. The European Swift spends most of the year in southern Africa, each spring migrating to Europe as far north as Lapland, inside the Arctic Circle, and eastwards to China to breed and to raise their young. 

All bird species have mastered the art of flying, but none so much as the Swift, a bird which can obtain everything it needs from the air, insects, water, and nest material borne on the wind. It can ride on air currents all night whilst sleeping on the wing, it is the only known bird having the ability to mate on the wing, this creature truly is a fascination to us all. As a group of birds Swifts are the fastest of all in level flight, and the Needle-tailed Swifts of Africa and Asia have been claimed by some experts in the field to have attained speeds of up to 105 mph....maybe that sounds even more impressive at almost 170 kph.

For a bird weighing no more than 50 grams the European Swift can have quite a long life-span averaging about five and a half years. But an individual found dying in Oxford in 1964 had been ringed as an adult in 1948 making this bird at least 18 years old, it was calculated to have possibly flown in its lifetime a distance of some 4 million miles, thats equivalent to flying to the moon and return eight times....ponder over that!

It wasn't until 1960 that the first British ringed Swift was recovered in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. A bird ringed in Yorkshire in 1962 was recovered  five months later in Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - 5,600 miles away thereby setting the southernmost limit to the distribution of the Common Swift.

Over the years there have been many legends about the Swift, but the real-life story of this amazing bird has slowly been pieced together through some amateur naturalists and professional ornithologists and the truth is, this extraordinary bird is in truth revealed as something much stranger than any of the legends surrounding it.

Simon Hawtins excellent image of the Swift has been featured on Birds2blog once before....Welcome Back!

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Fascinating birds aren't they Pete. I love 'em!!