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Topic : Land Birds

Article 11 bullet 20 December 2006

European Swift landfall at Klein's Camp - Serengeti

by Alastair Kilpin

Its not often one is able to get close to live Common (European) Swifts Apus apus on the African continent. They normally are seen on passage in September - November in Kenya/Tanzania. Last year (2005) very few were seen as it was a dry year, and this year we have seen them frequently as they wander widely following the rains over the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem.

European Swift

The morning after an enormous storm on the 19 th December 2006 where 53 mm of rain was recorded (to add to the 320mm already recorded so far in the 'short rains'), we found a number of swifts lying in the grass around the camp itself. When we started to look around, we ended up finding 44 birds! Fifteen were dead and the rest we warmed and released after taking some delta length measurements (the distance in mm between outer tail tip and next tail feather!).

European Swift

Based on the overall plumage colouration, delta and other measurements, description of the juvenile plumage with white scaling etc, we concluded that they were all Common (European) Swifts of the nominate race. We took measurements of the dead birds - finding that most fell within known ranges for the species. Most dead birds were juveniles that probably died from exposure in the early hours of the morning.

European Swift

Klein's Camp is a 'CC Africa' run concession in the north-east Serengeti (01º46’34” S, 035º16’56”E) and managed by Alastair and Petro Kilpin. It has fantastic birding opportunities both from vehicles and on foot.



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