Somewhere in the Tawny Owl Nesting Diary I said I would put up some pics of Floppy. Well, Floppy was a Swift, and as I'm unlikely to get better pics by standing in a field with no matter how big a telephoto, here she is.
Floppy dropped in through my London bedroom window in July2004. She (or he) clearly wasn't well, which of course is why she had alighted on the window sash. I struggled to keep her going over the next 4-5 days and may be one of the few people who's ever managed to hand feed a Swift! She cooperated wonderfully and became very friendly. I've never got so fond of a bird so quickly. But on her last morning the effort of bouncing out of the carrier on to my bed proved too much for her failing system and she died of a heart attack. Mercifully it was all over very quickly.
During her first couple of days with me I got some pics of her, and here's a selection. I've tried to bring out her beautiful bronzy sheen. Bronzy? Well, a sort of dark honey-brown. Never could quite find a precise descriptive term.
There's excellent and detailed advice on looking after a downed Swift on the London Swifts website. The only thing that's not mentioned there is the tendency of a non-flying bird to get chilled, so look out for this and provide some source of extra warmth if the bird appears to need it. Here's another excellent site with lots on these oh so beautiful birds: www.commonswift.org
First photo session a couple of hours after she dropped through my window. It's probably the first time she's been near a human, and she's looking worried. Her tiny beak was like soft plastic. After trying to feed her through the side of her gape I learned to open her beak gently from the front and fed her successfully. But the little point on the upper beak overhangs the lower by such a small margin that it took practice to get it right.
Apodidae, the genus name, means you have (almost) no legs. Here she is from underneath.
She quickly became tame and cooperative, making few attempts to leave my hand. Normally when a bird looks round like this it's looking for somewhere to get away from you.
Keeping a grounded swift warm is a big problem, even in July. In the left pic she's on a bottle, but insists on clambering around. Away from the bottle she quickly became chilled and would settle gladly for the warmth of a hand. Unlike other birds swifts seem to have no ability to fluff their feathers to conserve body heat -- not really necessary if you spend your whole life on the wing.
With no legs you have to invent novel ways of getting around. As she could fly at the time, this pic shows how swifts find it difficult to launch from a flat surface. There's no clearance between your tum and wings and the ground. So she would "row" herself around until I felt she'd had enough.
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