Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are there really birds that have no feet and never land (and why would people think that this is a possible thing)?


Last night someone told me that they were told that in the Bahamas there is a bird with no feet that never lands. I told him that is ridiculous, as any bird that wants to reproduce is forced to land and sit on a nest. Of course I was right, and I think I've found the source of this strange belief.
As you can see, it does have feet.

And it is called the Chimney Swift.

According to this birding column in the Cape Cod newspaper, a young swift will drop out of the nest, take flight, and not land again for three years, when it's ready to nest. Other sites, such as Lords Chimney (cool name, huh) disagree and claim that the birds roost all the time, which makes a lot more sense to me. The thing they can't do is perch, so they spend all their roosting time clinging to the vertical sides of chimneys and hollow trees. This awesome website points out that the Swift's family name, Apodidae, is Latin for footless (I double checked. Also, if you want some fun, right click, or whatever you do to steal images for a mac, on the photo of April "Nature" Lorier.).

So we have birds that old blind taxonimists told us have no feet, and are always flying when they aren't holed up in a chimney or hollow tree. These seem to fit the criteria.
Myth Busted.

Upon checking the Princeton Encyclopedia of Birds, they also claim that it is entirely possible that swifts could go for years without landing. People see them at night, sky cruising. Airplanes see them way up high. So, I guess they really do only need to land to make the babies. Anthropomorphically speaking, they probably keep roosting after that, you know, settlin' down and all.

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