A cell of swifts

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: A cell of swifts
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2010 21:38:15 +1000
While thinking about the flock of needletails I watched circling over Mt Gravatt yesterday, I came to consider the question of what the appropriate collective noun would be for a flock of swifts circling around for a feed. The way they circulated reminded me a bit of a whirly whirly or dust devil. Typically, a flock of swifts is like a small intense low pressure cell that moves in fits and starts. It is interesting the way the cell hangs over a place for a few minutes than suddenly shifts to another spot, and so on.

Working my way through the copious pictures I took of the cell, I was struck by the variation in the needletails wing and tail shape. As the birds were not moving at high speed, many didn't have the long, pointed, swept-back wing shape and pointed tails that I normally associate with needletails. Rather, many had shorter, broader, more rounded wings, and a number had their tails spread. In some cases, the spread tail had the profile of a cauliflower. In that respect, needletails have a fair bit in common with F1-11s and other swing-wing aircraft.

Another thing I noticed was the body shape when viewed side on - needletails have a fair bit in common with an ideal skipping stone - the type that would bounce a dozen times across the water if you threw it correctly. In effect, the side profile was almost symmetrical along the longitudinal axis - a bit like the proverbial flying saucer.

Clearly the Needletailed Swift is a bird that feels the "need for speed".

Regards, Laurie.


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