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Swimming as a potentially important emergency capability of Whitethroated Swifts (Aeronautes saxatalis) engaged in aerial mating

Daniel F. Brunton


It seems reasonable that birds that court or mate in the air over lakes or rivers should be capable of taking off from water or be able to swim, as they might find themselves in the water as a result of this activity. Nonetheless, interaction with water has rarely been documented in the wild and has not been reported for any species of swift in Canada. I report an incident of such activity, however, from Oliver, British Columbia. In this case, I observed a White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis) swimming vigorously for over 10 minutes before reaching dry land approximately 85 m away. The bird likely fell into the water as a result of flight miscalculations during aerial courtship or mating. I speculate that its swimming capability was aided by the long, narrow, flipper-like wings of the species. I did not observe the bird take flight from the water surface. From these observations, it is evident that White-throated Swifts are relatively strong, capable swimmers, at least for short periods.


White-throated Swift; Aeronautes saxatalis; swimming; aerial mating; British Columbia

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