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White-Throated Swift

White-Throated Swift

White-throated swifts spend their life on the wing— literally. A White-throated Swift eats, drinks, bathes and even mates while flying, stopping only to rest and nest. During its lifetime, this bird that weighs one ounce, is likely to fly more than a million miles. That’s 40 times around the world. White-throated Swifts are slender and black with a white throat patch that tapers down to the black belly. There are white patches on their flanks.

These birds are 7 inches long and have a 15-inch wing span. The long, tapered wings are held angled back and the forked tail comes to a point. White-throated Swifts, often described as the fastest avian flyers, have been clocked at 200 miles per hour. They have been observed in flight escaping the stoop of a Peregrine falcon (which also has been called the fastest bird in the air).

Mating is a dramatic aerial coupling that includes a pin wheeled downspin of several hundred feet. Nests are built on canyon cliff walls, bridges and overpasses and in crevices. They are saucer-shaped and constructed with twigs and pine needles that are glued together with saliva. Four or five eggs are incubated by the male and female. White–throated Swifts feed on flying insects, flies, beetles, bees, winged ants, wasps and leaf hoppers. You can see their expanded throat pouches when they carry food to the young. There is a record of one White-throated Swift carrying 600 bugs in its mouth.

First published MCAS The Black Oystercatcher December 2013
Photo Michael Woodruff