Common Swifts Set New Record for Migration Speed

Swifts aren't called "swifts" for nothing. They're known for being among the fastest migrating small birds around. When they aren't breeding, common swifts stay in the air most of the time--up to 10 months of the year. Scientists had thought they travel about 500 kilometers per day on average. Now, new evidence reported online in the journal iScience on May 20 shows that's a conservative estimate. The open-access article is titled “"Wind-Assisted Sprint Migration in Northern Swifts.” According to new tracking data, common swifts travel 570 kilometers (more than 350 miles) on an average day--but they are capable of going much farther and faster. The maximum recorded distance in the study was more than 830 kilometers (more than 500 miles) per day over nine days. "We have discovered that common swifts breeding in the most northern part of the European breeding range perform the fastest migrations of swifts recorded so far, reaching above the predictions," says Susanne Åkesson (@susanne_akesson), PhD, of Lund University in Sweden. "The swifts seem to achieve these high speeds over substantial distances--on average about 8,000 kilometers one way--in spring by using a mixed migration strategy, with fueling at stopover and a fly-and-forage strategy, meaning they feed and fuel a bit each day."

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