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Annual 10-Month Aerial Life Phase in the Common Swift Apus apus

Hedenström, Anders LU ; Norevik, Gabriel LU ; Warfvinge, Kajsa LU ; Andersson, Arne LU ; Bäckman, Johan LU and Åkesson, Susanne LU (2016) In Current Biology 26(22). p.3066-3070
Abstract

The common swift (Apus apus) is adapted to an aerial lifestyle, where food and nest material are captured in the air. Observations have prompted scientists to hypothesize that swifts stay airborne for their entire non-breeding period [1, 2], including migration into sub-Saharan Africa [3–5]. It is mainly juvenile common swifts that occasionally roost in trees or buildings before autumn migration when weather is bad [1, 6]. In contrast, the North American chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) and Vaux's swift (C. vauxi) regularly settle to roost in places like chimneys and buildings during migration and winter [7, 8]. Observations of common swifts during the winter months are scarce, and roost sites have never been found in sub-Saharan... (More)

The common swift (Apus apus) is adapted to an aerial lifestyle, where food and nest material are captured in the air. Observations have prompted scientists to hypothesize that swifts stay airborne for their entire non-breeding period [1, 2], including migration into sub-Saharan Africa [3–5]. It is mainly juvenile common swifts that occasionally roost in trees or buildings before autumn migration when weather is bad [1, 6]. In contrast, the North American chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) and Vaux's swift (C. vauxi) regularly settle to roost in places like chimneys and buildings during migration and winter [7, 8]. Observations of common swifts during the winter months are scarce, and roost sites have never been found in sub-Saharan Africa. In the breeding season, non-breeding individuals usually spend the night airborne [9], whereas adult nesting birds roost in the nest [1]. We equipped common swifts with a micro data logger with an accelerometer to record flight activity (years 1–2) and with a light-level sensor for geolocation (year 2). Our data show that swifts are airborne for >99% of the time during their 10-month non-breeding period; some individuals never settled, but occasional events of flight inactivity occurred in most individuals. Apparent flight activity was lower during the daytime than during the nighttime, most likely due to prolonged gliding episodes during the daytime when soaring in thermals. Our data also revealed that twilight ascents, previously observed during the summer [10], occur throughout the year. The results have important implications for understanding physiological adaptations to endure prolonged periods of flight, including the need to sleep while airborne.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
accelerometry, aerial life, Apus apus, common swift, dusk ascent, endurance flight, flight activity, geolocation, roost, sleep
in
Current Biology
volume
26
issue
22
pages
5 pages
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:84997246205
  • wos:000388545900026
ISSN
0960-9822
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.014
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
223d24a5-e6c8-4ee1-b7ae-2d449e8d25ab
date added to LUP
2016-12-12 09:00:42
date last changed
2017-10-22 05:23:37
@article{223d24a5-e6c8-4ee1-b7ae-2d449e8d25ab,
  abstract     = {<p>The common swift (Apus apus) is adapted to an aerial lifestyle, where food and nest material are captured in the air. Observations have prompted scientists to hypothesize that swifts stay airborne for their entire non-breeding period [1, 2], including migration into sub-Saharan Africa [3–5]. It is mainly juvenile common swifts that occasionally roost in trees or buildings before autumn migration when weather is bad [1, 6]. In contrast, the North American chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) and Vaux's swift (C. vauxi) regularly settle to roost in places like chimneys and buildings during migration and winter [7, 8]. Observations of common swifts during the winter months are scarce, and roost sites have never been found in sub-Saharan Africa. In the breeding season, non-breeding individuals usually spend the night airborne [9], whereas adult nesting birds roost in the nest [1]. We equipped common swifts with a micro data logger with an accelerometer to record flight activity (years 1–2) and with a light-level sensor for geolocation (year 2). Our data show that swifts are airborne for &gt;99% of the time during their 10-month non-breeding period; some individuals never settled, but occasional events of flight inactivity occurred in most individuals. Apparent flight activity was lower during the daytime than during the nighttime, most likely due to prolonged gliding episodes during the daytime when soaring in thermals. Our data also revealed that twilight ascents, previously observed during the summer [10], occur throughout the year. The results have important implications for understanding physiological adaptations to endure prolonged periods of flight, including the need to sleep while airborne.</p>},
  author       = {Hedenström, Anders and Norevik, Gabriel and Warfvinge, Kajsa and Andersson, Arne and Bäckman, Johan and Åkesson, Susanne},
  issn         = {0960-9822},
  keyword      = {accelerometry,aerial life,Apus apus,common swift,dusk ascent,endurance flight,flight activity,geolocation,roost,sleep},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {11},
  number       = {22},
  pages        = {3066--3070},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Annual 10-Month Aerial Life Phase in the Common Swift Apus apus},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.014},
  volume       = {26},
  year         = {2016},
}