Saturday 10 November 2012

Recovery of a grounded Swift

The summer of 2012 was challenging for Swifts, many chicks died and some adults had difficulty getting enough food for themselves. This is the story of an underweight adult Swift, which, we hope, had a happy ending. It demonstrates how small an entrance an, admittedly underweight, Swift can pass through.

Contributed by Rodney Monteith

In early July I made one of my regular checks on my local colony. About 15m from the nearest nest lay a grounded swift. Once I had it in my hands I took it to an open area and gave it the opportunity to fly from a height of about 3 meters. No amount of persuasion would get it to take off so I took it with me and put it in a nest box that I had previously modified to play a call CD.

Over the next three days it consumed 45 gm of waxworms and its initial weight of 33gm rose to 35.2gm, it also went from being totally lethargic to being quite lively, so much so that it managed to escape from the nest box.  
Box designed for holding attraction call player,
then used for rehabilitation
The box was the size of typical swift box as can be seen from the photo but since I had been concealing a CD player inside I didn’t actually want any birds to be able to get in so I made the entrance hole smaller than required. 

I positioned the box on its back so that the front became a lid and as it turned out my swift was able to climb up the smooth plywood and squeeze out through the hole at the top. The hole is only  47mm x  23mm so is much smaller that recommended entrance holes so I was surprised when I found the bird huddled in the corner of the room on the floor.

The Swift having escaped!
Having recaptured the escapee I returned it to the box as it was late in the evening and could not risk trying to set it free. The next day its weight had dropped to 32.9gm but it was very lively so I took it to a large open field and it practically struggled free and flew of strongly rapidly gaining height  until it disappeared into the distance alone.

I do not know if the bird was a breeder, non breeder or visitor. Was it grounded because of exhaustion after a fight I do not know.  It did appear to be adult and two of its tail feathers were partially sheathed so this may have had an effect on its activity.

It was also much lighter in weight that I expected, based on what I have read, but it flew off even lighter than when I found it.

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