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A Study On Just How Long Birds Can Fly Revealed That One Species Known As The Common Swift Can Soar The Skies For Ten Whole Months Without Taking A Break

Mircea Costina - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual bird

Scientists study birds for many reasons—to determine which species need immediate protection or to further their understanding of how to protect the environment. From their studies, they usually find that birds are pretty amazing.

One bird, known as the common swift, is capable of an enormous feat—flying for 10 months without stopping.

In the 1970s, a Welsh ornithologist named Ronald Lockley had suspected that the bird could remain airborne for such an extensive period of time, but it wasn’t until 2016 that scientists had the tools to confirm the theory.

A group of researchers from Lund University in Sweden tracked the flights of 13 common swifts, tagging them with accelerometers and light sensors. The technology allowed the team to record the birds’ flight activity without interfering with their natural behavior.

When the team recaptured the birds, the results proved the hypothesis correct: common swifts spend most of their time in the air. The tracked birds only stayed on land for two months of the year to breed. Some of the birds occasionally stopped to rest during their journey, but they still spent more than 99.5 percent of their time flying.

Three of the birds never landed at all during the entirety of their 10-month migration. The researchers suggest that the difference between the birds that landed and those that stayed in the air was their feathers. The birds that landed had not molted their wing feathers, while the birds that never rested had molted and grown new feathers.

Common swifts are small creatures with short legs, weighing only around 1.4 ounces. So, how do they continue flying for so long?

“Common swifts have evolved to be very efficient flyers, with streamlined body shapes and long and narrow wings, generating lift force at low cost,” Anders Hedenström, one of the authors of the study, explained.

Their anatomy helps them consume less energy. While they’re in the air, they can also mate, drink, and eat insects. They are vulnerable on the ground, where they will easily become victims of land-dwelling predators.

Mircea Costina – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual bird

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