Nav: Home

Swifts are born to eat and sleep in the air

March 06, 2019

"They eat and sleep while they are airborne. This is something that researchers have believed since the 1950s, and now we can show that it's true", says Anders Hedenström, professor at the Department of Biology at Lund University.

Three years ago, the same research team at Lund University observed that within the species common swift, (Apus apus) there were individuals that live in the air for up to ten consecutive months without landing - a world record for being airborne. A different research team has also shown that the alpine swift could live largely in the air.

In the current study, Anders Hedenström and his colleagues Susanne Åkesson, Gabriel Norevik, Arne Andersson and Johan Bäckman at Lund University, and Giovanni Boano from Italy, studied four individuals of the species pallid swift (Apus pallidus). The results show that the birds are in the air without landing for between two and three and a half months, depending on the individual.

Using micro-data loggers attached to the birds, the researchers measured movement when the wings flap. The loggers record activity every five minutes, and the bird's location once a month. Using this method, the researchers have been able to ascertain that the birds live for months at a time in the air during the winter months, the period of the year they spend in West Africa after the breeding season in Italy.

"They land when they breed under a roof tile or in a hole, otherwise they live in the air. They eat insects while they fly, and when they have reached a high altitude and start gliding, they actually sleep for short periods", says Anders Hedenström.

The breeding season dictates why pallid swifts cannot fly for as many months in a row as the common swift, i.e. ten months. Pallid swifts lay two clutches in one season, the common swift only one.

"However, it doesn't actually matter if a species spends three or ten months in the air. Both are adapted to live in that element, they are designed to fly with maximised energy efficiency, regardless of whether they are flapping or gliding", says Anders Hedenström, continuing:

"It's always said, of course, that flying is birds' most energy-intensive activity. I have calculated that a nightingale, which doesn't live in the air in the same way at all, expends as much energy as a pallid swift, which is in the air all the time."

Swifts have a high survival rate compared to many other birds. The researchers believe this is due to swifts spending such a large part of their lives in the air, where predators cannot surprise them in the same way as on the ground or in a nest. Also, when airborne they are not affected by parasites in the same way as on the ground.
-end-


Lund University

Related Sleep Articles:

Chronic opioid therapy can disrupt sleep, increase risk of sleep disorders
Patients and medical providers should be aware that chronic opioid use can interfere with sleep by reducing sleep efficiency and increasing the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.
Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.
Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.
Opioids are not sleep aids, and can actually worsen sleep research finds
Evidence that taking opioids will help people with chronic pain to sleep better is limited and of poor quality, according to an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and medics from the University of Warwick in partnership with Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland.
Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.
Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?
Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Kicking, yelling during sleep? Study finds risk factors for violent sleep disorder
Taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, according to a study published in the Dec.
Sleep health and yoga intervention delivered in low-income communities improves sleep
Pilot study results indicate that a sleep and yoga intervention has promising effects on improving sleep disturbance, sleep-related impairment, and sleep health behaviors.
More Sleep News and Sleep Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab