Swifts or flocking swallows?

To: Gordon and Pam Cain <>,
Subject: Swifts or flocking swallows?
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2010 05:24:52 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Gordon,

Swallows and martins are gregarious as are swifts. Therefore the number 
shouldn't be an indicator. (I've seen flocks of hundreds of swallows and/or 
Swallows and martins hunt for aerial insects as do swifts. This kind of prey 
flies high in high pressure systems and low in low pressure systems. Therefore 
the hunting height depends on the prey and indirectly on the pressure system. 
And yes, independent of the pressure system swallows and martins dip a drink, 
but swifts do that too.
I would rather look for flight style, structural and plumage field marks (plus 
calls) to identify swallows, martins and swifts.
Finally, there shouldn't be any swifts in NSW at this time of the year.

Hope that helped a bit!



Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW

----- Original Message ----
From: Gordon and Pam Cain <>
Sent: Fri, July 23, 2010 7:46:48 PM
Subject: Swifts or flocking swallows?

I was looking over the dam at a local property today, and saw what I first 
thought were swallows. However, a few things made me wonder:
First, they were flocking -- there was a good 15-25 birds together. I don't 
recall seeing swallows in those numbers before.

Second, they were up higher than what I'm used to seeing -- in my mind, 
often fly much lower, and frequently dip a drink in the water as well as catch 
their dinner on the wing. these were flying at and above the tree top level -- 
lots of tall large eucalypts. And I saw none dipping a drink in the dam.

Also, not all appeared to have forked tails -- at first I assumed martins.

Finally, it was as a cool change came through this afternoon.

So does it look like I was watching a flock of swallows with perhaps a couple 
martins tossed in, or were these fork-tailed swifts and white-throated needle 
tails? To my knowledge, I've never seen the latter before, though I gather they 
are not terribly uncommon at the leading edge of a cool change.

Thanks in advance for your help to a casual birder.

Gordon Cain
Schofields, NSW
(NW Blacktown, close to the Hawkesbury, NW Sydney)

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