Discovery: Swifts can fly nonstop for 10 months

Researchers have found that Swift birds are able to keep themselves airborne up to ten months a year.

Scientists from Lund University, Sweden, used miniature trackers on 19 swifts and observed that some birds did not land once during their migratory period, suggesting that they eat and sleep in the sky.

“When the common swifts leave their breeding site in August for a migration to the Central African rainforests via West Africa, they never touch ground until they return for the next breeding season 10 months later,” said lead researcher Anders Hedenström in a statement. “Some individuals may roost for brief periods, or even entire nights in mid-winter, but others literally never landed during this period.”

The birds were observed to go to higher altitudes at dawn and dusk, and might be taking “power naps” while gliding back. They are also able to catch warm air currents to glide upwards.

“The fact that some individuals never landed during 10 months suggests they sleep on the wing,” Hedenstrom said.

“The data showed that swifts spend more than 99 percent of their time during their 10-month non-breeding period in flight,” the statement reads. “While some individuals settled down at some point, others never did. The birds’ flight activity often appeared lower during the day than at night, most likely because the birds spent their days soaring on warm air currents.”

This has been the longest ever recorded flight by any species of bird beating previous record of Alpine Swift by a 100 days.

Scientists published their findings Oct. 27 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology,


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