Tiny Bird Doesn’t Land for 10 Months
The common swift makes its cousin’s six months in continuous flight look like nothing more than a hop, skip, and a jump. The tiny bird easily steals the record for longest continuous flight by spending 10 months in the air without landing once, reports NPR, by way of a study in Current Biology. In 2013, researchers at Sweden’s Lund University strapped adult swifts with accelerometers that recorded when the birds flapped their wings and discovered that they spent all but two months of the year aloft, even as they migrated across the equator and back. Some touched down briefly, probably during bad weather, but, overall, more than 99% of the 10-month nonbreeding period was spent in the sky.
That means the fittingly-named birds—their species name, Apus, translates to “footless,” reports Discover—ate moths and other insects to sustain themselves while in the air. It’s clear they saved energy gliding on rising air, but researchers say it’s possible they slept, too. Except to lay their eggs and raise their young, which swifts do for the other two months of the year, “there is no need for them to [land] unless … they encounter very bad weather,” study author Anders Hedenström says, per the Los Angeles Times. Actually, swifts are rather clumsy on the ground and their wings and feet not well suited to taking off from a flat surface, reports National Geographic, so it’s safer for them up in the air.