The common swift may not look like much, but scientists have just revealed an amazing fact about this species.
Scientists have just found something out about a certain species of bird that is sure to totally blow your mind. The common swift is capable of flying non-stop for a very long time: not 10 minutes, not 10 hours, not 10 days, but 10 months. Yes, really.
The common swift, Apus apus, can fly for about 300 days non-stop, doing everything from eating to mating to whatever else it needs to do, all while flying. Other birds have been known to fly for quite a long time, including the frigatebird and the Alpine swift, Tachymarptis melba, which was the previous record holder. But the common swift beats the latter species by a whopping 100 days, according to a Cell Press statement.
Swifts aren’t built to hang around on the ground or even in trees. When they do roost, it’s on the side of trees or structures like buildings. And they really don’t need to rest except in emergencies, catching warm air currents to glide upwards. It’s still not clear if they actually sleep.
Scientists published their findings Oct. 27 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology, and based their research on 19 swifts with certain sensors placed on them.
“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,” Anders Hedenström of Lund University in Sweden said in the statement. “Some individuals may roost for brief periods, or even entire nights in mid-winter, but others literally never landed during this period.”
Hedenstrom and colleagues used a micro data logger to monitor the flight activity of the birds, and light sensors for geolocation.
“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.”
As far as sleeping goes: “the fact that some individuals never landed during 10 months suggests they sleep on the wing,” Hedenstrom said.