Brian Trumbore, Editor, PO Box 990, New Providence, NJ 07974
(908) 273-1926

10/31/16…the incredible story of the Swift

From the chairman of the ASL:


New All-Species List Top Ten

  1. Dog
  2. Elephant
  3. Tiger
  4. Southwest African Lion
  5. Great White Shark
  6. Grizzly Bear (includes Kodiak and Brown Bears)
  7. Pig
  8. Octopus
  9. Wolverine…up 1
  10. Mallard…enters the list for the first time. ‘Gibbon’ drops down.
    Others knocking on the door…Gorilla, Leopard Seal, Orca, Hawk, Hippo, Wolf, Ocelot, Mountain Lion, Rhino, Yak, Snow Leopard, Raven,     Swift and Polar Bear.

This week I added Swift and Raven. Regarding the former, see the story below. As for the Raven, CBS’ “Sunday Morning” program on Oct. 30 had a terrific piece on just how intelligent they are, if still a bit spooky.

From London’s Daily Telegraph:

“Those who have ever struggled to get some rest on a long-haul flight should perhaps spare a thought for the common swift.

“Already known to be one of the fastest-flying birds on the planet, scientists have now discovered that they also manage to spend as much as 10 months continuously airborne, while taking ‘power naps’ on the wing.

“The new record more than beats the species previously thought to be capable of the longest continued flight, the Alpine swift, which has achieved six months without touching the ground. A frigate bird has been recorded non-stop in the air for two months.”

Are you like me and having a hard time wrapping your head around this?

“Anders Hendenstrom, the lead researcher and a professor of biology at Lund University in Sweden, said: ‘It’s mind-boggling that they can stay airborne for 10 months without needing to come down.

“ ‘Most of the time there is a trade-off between energy use and life: live hard and die young. But these birds live quite long – up to 20 years – so somehow they have beaten this rule.’

“The lifespan of the common swift means that the accumulated flight distance of a single bird is equal to seven round-trip journeys to the moon, he added.

“The bird, ubiquitous in the UK and Europe, conserves energy by riding currents of hot air and taking ‘power naps’ as it slowly glides from high altitudes. Scientists tracked 19 of the creatures as they completed two of their annual migratory cycles to Central Africa via West Africa and found that three did not once touch the ground.

“The others spent all but half a percent of their cumulative flight time in the air, only landing due to emergencies such as violent weather.”
It also seems that twice a day they climb to 10,000 feet.

“The altitude afforded the birds roughly half an hour’s slow descent when they could sleep, said Prof. Hendenstrom. ‘We don’t know for sure that they went to sleep but it’s logical to assume so because all animals need sleep.’”

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