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Alpine Swift

The Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba), is a species of bird found the mountains of southern Europe to the Himalayas. They are strongly migratory and winter much further south in southern Africa. They do tend to wander during migration and some birds are regularly seen in much of southern Europe and Asia. These birds spend much of their lives in the air, but will roost on rocky cliffs or walls.

This bird is easily identified by its large size. Their wingspan is about 22 inches long compared to the 16.5 inch span of common swifts. The Alpine Swift is black except for a white belly and throat. It has a dark neckband separating the white areas. It has a short forked tail and long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent. Their flight is slow and powerful. The call is a drawn-out twittering.

These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces. They never settle voluntarily on the ground. They build their nests in colonies in a suitable cave or hole in a cliff wall. 2 or 3 eggs are laid. Breeding pairs will return to the same site year after year, rebuilding the nest if necessary. If food is scarce due to bad weather, the young can lower their body temperature and become torpid (a state of dormancy or hibernation).

Alpine Swift


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