keane
No Comments

The swallows and swifts are telling us something

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

The seasons keep on moving round.

The air in Barga Vecchia now has the faint tinge of wood smoke as one or two wood stoves are fired up for the first time this autumn.

Heavier jackets can be seen on the streets – not worn by the visitors it has to said, as they are still arriving in short sleeves, sandals and bottles of water in hand but the colder weather is not that far way now.

For a second opinion, just look at the swifts this week.

They have been gradually moving up to the cyprus trees next to the Duomo and gathering in larger and larger groups ready for their long migration to Africa.

One morning we will wake up to find them all gone until miraculously they are back to herald in the spring once more.

The swifts are a family, Apodidae, of highly aerial birds. They are superficially similar to swallows, but are not closely related to passerine species. Swifts are placed in the order Apodiformes, which they share with hummingbirds. The treeswifts are closely related to the true swifts, but form a separate family, the Hemiprocnidae.

Resemblances between swifts and swallows are due to convergent evolution, reflecting similar life styles based on catching insects in flight.

The family name, Apodidae, is derived from the Greek απους, apous, meaning “without feet”, a reference to the small, weak legs of these most aerial of birds. The tradition of depicting swifts without feet continued into the Middle Ages, as seen in the heraldic martlet.

Some species of swifts are among the fastest animals on the planet, with some of the fastest measured flight speeds of any bird.

The swallows and martins are a group of passerine birds in the family Hirundinidae which are characterised by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the barn swallow.

This family comprises two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (the river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows and martins). Within the Old World, the name “martin” tends to be used for the squarer-tailed species, and the name “swallow” for the more fork-tailed species; however, there is no scientific distinction between these two groups. Within the New World, “martin” is reserved for members of the genus Progne. (These two systems are responsible for the sand martin being called “bank swallow” in the New World.) The entire family contains around 83 species in 19 genera.

The swallows have a cosmopolitan distribution across the world and breed on all the continents except Antarctica. It is believed that this family originated in Africa as hole-nesters; Africa still has the greatest diversity of species.They also occur on a number of oceanic islands. A number of European and North American species are long-distance migrants; by contrast, the West and South African swallows are non-migratory.

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of