Common swifts can stay airborne for record 10 months: researchers discover

Common swifts can stay airborne for record 10 months: researchers discover

Small brown birds called “common swifts” can stay airborne for a record period of ten months without once touching the land, a group of Swedish researchers discovered.

The discovery that amazed even the most ardent ornithologists offered a tantalizing glimpse of what would be possible for future generations of tiny drones if they could mimic the tiny birds’ flying efficiency.

Common swifts normally spend a couple of months per year at various breeding sites in Sweden. For the rest of the year, these birds fly to and from their overwintering sites in sub-Saharan Africa without touching down.

Co-author Anders Hedenström, a biologist from Lund University in Sweden, said, “They are extremely well adapted with crescent wings and a long streamlined body shape to minimize the drag. They are the Formula One car of the bird world.”

Hedenström added that common swifts use a combination of flapping and gliding to travel long distances very efficiently, without touching down. These birds’ extraordinary ability to stay airborne relies on their ability to eat as well as rest in the air.

The astonishing discovery of common swifts’ extraordinary level of flying efficiency was detailed in a recent issue of the journal Current Biology.

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