Speed champions: Swallows, swifts and terns return to Moscow

June 17
Parks and pedestrian areas

Experts from Mospriroda, a state nature conservation organisation in Moscow, monitor quick birds with forked tails in the city’s natural areas. Swallows, swifts and terns, despite their resemblance, belong to different orders.

Swallows easily adapt to any environment: they can be seen on the beach and in meadows as well as in the city. Their most distinctive feature is a forked tail. Possibly, it is their tail that helps them fly so quickly and manoeuvre. Swallows can reach a speed of up to 160 km per hour and can fly for many hours.

With their well-developed wings, swallows spend 95 percent of their life in flight, descending to the ground rarely, most often to collect building materials for their nests.

The swallow is listed in category one (endangered) of Moscow’s Red Data Book.

Swallows resemble swifts in appearance and flight. Swifts can fly at 200 km per hour, and some species can even reach 300 km per hour. Many people do not know the difference between swifts and swallows, often confusing them because swifts have forked tails too. Swifts, however, have narrower wings, so they fly faster, making fewer manoeuvres. They also do not fold their wings in flight and let out loud screams.

Except the nesting period, swifts spend most of their life in flight, feeding on the insects they catch in the air. They drink, eat and sleep in flight. Some fly for 10 months without landing. They can cover millions of kilometres during their life.

Terns are sometimes called sea swallows, although they belong to the family Laridae. Terns live on the sea shore and on the banks of fresh water bodies. They feed on fish and other aquatic animals, which they catch by diving from above. Like other species of their family, terns have webbed feet and forked tails, like swallows.

Terns feel most at home in flight. The terns’ long and fast wings easily carry their light bodies through the air. They fly at a high speed, making beautiful and complicated turns by occasionally flapping their wings. If a tern catches a gust of air not high above the water’s surface, it can hover by vibrating its wings. This skill comes in handy when hunting.

The common tern is included in Moscow’s Red Data Book in the second category (small in number).

Source: mos.ru

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