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Roosting in tree foliage by Common Swifts Apus apus

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Common Swifts Apus apus have occasionally been reported roosting overnight by hanging in the foliage of trees. However, roosting in foliage, which is often associated with food shortage as a result of adverse weather, appears to be an important alternative to aerial roosting. Thirty-nine observations of the behaviour have been recorded previously in Europe, some of them concerning two or more birds. Furthermore, each August from 1982 to 2000, within a restricted area of c. 300 × 300 m in southern Sweden, Swifts (118 total) were observed to roost in the foliage of trees or on a latticework mast, whereas others (230 total) were observed making ‘fly-ins’ typical of the behaviour preliminary to roosting. Of those roosting, 39 Swifts could be aged, and all but one of these were newly fledged juveniles. The Swifts perched late at dusk with maximum frequency about 30 min after sunset, but tended to perch earlier in cloudy weather and later in clear weather. Numbers of roosting Swifts were correlated with low mean temperatures in August, and appearances of roosting Swifts were correlated with low local evening temperatures. During May–July 1982–2000, within the same small area, 18 Swifts were observed to roost in this manner and 29 other Swifts made preroost fly-ins. It is concluded that the behaviour is used more frequently and is more widespread geographically than thus far published observations indicate. This applies especially to newly fledged young on their first migration. Adaptive explanations for this are suggested, with the implication that the behaviour may be widespread in swifts of the tribe Apodini.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2004


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