House Swift in the act of drinking water

posted in: Miscellaneous | 2

“Unlike Merops philippinus (Blue-tailed Bee-eater), Alcedo atthis (Common Kingfisher), Halcyon capensis (Stork-billed Kingfisher), Hirundo 
tahitica (Pacific Swallow) et al., apodids (swifts) do not seem to dive into water. It could be
 because their more rigid wings, as observed in flight, are not so amenable to generating the vertical thrust needed for leaving the
 water surface. They were never designed to take off from the ground into the air in the first place, let alone acceleration through the
far more viscous water.

“Apodid are, however, virtuosic drinkers. In a sigmoidal altitude
 profile, they descend rapidly from a great height and then level out gradually until only a matter of millimetres above the waves.

“As if
 choreographed in Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the diminutive, almost vestigial, bill burgeons into a diabolical gape larger than the
girth of the bird’s body and scoops a mouthful of water from the lake.

“This photograph shows the gaping bill of Apus affinis (House Swift) immediately prior to impact. I also have photos showing what look like Collocalia maxima (Black-nest Swiftlet) doing the same.

“Other photos record the induction of turbulence during the actual gulp, similar to the effect of a speedboat’s bow cutting through the water, but these are in even worse focus than the above. The water makes an audible hiss as the lower mandible zooms through.”

Lin Yangchen
21st December 2008

2 Responses

  1. jytou


    interested with ur photo of Black-nest Swiftlet as I am currently cracking my head on difficult swiftlets identification, but could get much photos to help me study their characteristics, illustrations on field guides are barely trustable.


  2. sigmoidal

    […] of our … reality the mark of the doomsayer, then a sigmoidal reality is the mark of optimism…Bird Ecology Study Group House Swift in the act of drinking …Contributed by Lin Yangchen Unlike Merops philippinus (Blue-tailed Bee-eater), Alcedo … In a […]

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