angriest little birdling
WHAT KIND OF BIRD IS THIS
MUST EMAIL MY BIRD FRIENDS
I copied the image url into google’s ‘search by image’ function and then checked the results! They indicated it was a common swift, and when I ran another image search with the search terms ‘common swift’ up popped a bunch of this little guy’s buddies.
best research jaunt ever
OOH Thank you, Roachpatrol!!! The best part about this post is that I was drunk and I sent it to three of my birder / veterinary student friends and I got this essay in my inbox this morning:
It’s a long winged bug eater, I can tell by looking, so either a swallow or a swift.
BIG differences between the two - swallows are semi normal (biased, I spent several summers working with them), swifts are legitimate freaks of nature.
Head - bug eating beak - looks small, actually a fucking huge gape. Swallow beaks look a bit more like what you are used to seeing as a “bird beak”, swifts look like their relatives and there is something just a bit… wrong… about the beak. This one looks funky, hence declaration #1 of swift. More below when I talk about relatives.
Wings - swallows have long and pointy wings (like falcons and doves) because they are super fast and agile (like falcons and doves) and that wing shape makes them fast and agile. The wing is kind normally proportioned though in terms of where the wrist is. Swifts take it a step farther and have SUPER tiny forearms (big feathers = secondary feathers - for lift), and relatively SUPER long hands (primary feathers - for thrust) so they are very fast and agile, but have to work even harder to stay up. Compare these to something like a gull or albatross, which have long forearms (yay lift) and short hands (boo thrust) and therefore are better at soaring and gliding. All of those birds have pointy wing tips (yay speed and agility) vs. kinda saw toothed wing tips (yay lift) so can’t be quite as lazy as something like a red-tailed hawk or vulture. (Not going to explain dynamic (gull) vs. passive (vulture) soaring right now, but things are a bit more complicated than what I had above…)
Feet - swallows have them. swifts barely have them.
So, swallows are passerines (perching/song birds - like finches, crows, canaries, cardinals, etc) so more or less the normal “bird” body shape because it is what we are used to seeing.
Swifts are apodiformes, which literally means “without feet” because their feet are ITTY BITTY. The other apodiformes besides the swift (so their closest relatives) are hummingbirds believe it or not. In general, apodiformes have tiny feet and weird wings. The next closest relatives are the caprimulgids and similar birds (nightjars, nighthawks, etc) and if you look at their faces, they have the funky itty bitty down turned beak with a huge fucking gape that the swifts have.
Fun fact: Swallows can land on the ground, shriek at you to stop fucking with their nest, and then fly up and go for your face. Swift wings are so weird and suck so much at lift that they more or less can’t fly off the ground - they need to use those tiny feet to climb up something, and take off from there. A grounded swift is a screwed swift.
note the where the wrist is in the wings:
Swallows come out straight, set below eyes, can see the gape:
Swift beak looks itty bitty, kinda down turned, cannot see the gape, set even to or almost above the eyes:
…where have I seen this before… here’s a nightjar - note the beak looks like the swift:
Swallow looks like a bird:
Swift… JESUS where did that come from:
Nightjar ready to eat your soul:
/taxonomy and anatomy spew
this is wonderful
(Source: efferd, via variablejabberwocky)