(New Scientist) Swifts are said to spend most of their lives airborne, but no one has ever proved this. Now, a study suggests there's some truth to it: alpine swifts spend more than six consecutive months aloft, not even resting after migrating to north Africa following their breeding season in Europe.
"Up to now, such long-lasting locomotive activity had been reported only for animals living in the sea," says Felix Liechti of the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach.
Liechti and his colleagues attached 1.5-gram data loggers to three alpine swifts (Tachymarptis melba) at a Swiss breeding site, and recaptured the birds the following year. The loggers recorded the birds' acceleration and geographic location. The measurements suggest that for 200 days, all three swifts remained airborne while migrating to and wintering in Africa.
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Liechti says researchers have previously asserted but never proved that newborn common swifts spend three years aloft before landing for breeding.