Birds That Never Stop Flying
I’ll admit it. When I’m out running around all day, I can’t wait to get home and sit down. I get tired! But did you know there are birds that never land (well, almost!)? Check out these birds with seemingly limitless energy.
The swifts spend most of their lives flying. Everything they need to do, like eating, sleeping, drinking, they do in the air. However, they do land to breed.
Both the Alpine Swift and the Common Swift do this.
Alpine Swifts live in Europe, and they migrate thousands of miles away to Africa for the winter. Researchers attached sensors to 6 Alpine Swifts in 2011 and the data showed that the birds never touched ground for 200 days. Other researchers found that the Common Swift stayed aloft for 10 months straight.
They eat insects, so they accomplish that by catching them and eating them as they fly. They drink “on the wing”, which means they skim the water and take a drink while they’re still flying. No one knows exactly how they’re able to sleep or rest while aloft, though.
When they mate, common swifts stay on the ground for 2 months. They live for 20 years. When you add up the distance they fly over 20 years, it equates to flying to the moon and back 7 times.
Albatrosses are incredible birds with wingspans that range from 6.5 feet to 11 feet. They live for around 50 years, but there’s an albatross named Wisdom that is at least 65 years old. She was tagged by researchers in 1956, and she gave birth to her 40th chick in 2016.
They eat squid and fish, and they spend almost their entire life in flight. They can fly 50 mph and go years without ever touching land. In fact, they spend their first 6 years flying and gliding over the ocean without ever landing. There are 22 species of albatross, and 20 of them are severely endangered.
One of the reasons for their near extinction is that they compete with people for fish in the ocean, and with people quickly wiping out the fish population worldwide (read the Current Plight of Our Fish), the albatrosses are losing. In addition to the lack of fish, tens of thousands of albatrosses are killed by fishing gear at sea and around fishing grounds every single year. They get killed by nets, trawlers, lines, hooks, etc.
Frigatebirds are also non-stop flyers. They, too, are big birds sporting wingspans over 6 feet long.
Unlike the other birds, though, these birds do not have waterproof feathers, so they can’t land on the water. If they did, they would easily drown. This is amazing for an aquatic bird!
When researchers tagged them, they were amazed to find that they fly as high as 12,000 feet high. That’s especially amazing since they’re tropical birds, and it’s freezing at a 12,000-feet altitude.
Tagging also showed that these birds fly nonstop for weeks or months. One bird was clocked at flying 34,000 miles without landing. Now mind you, the circumference of the earth at the equator is less than 25,000 miles.
They live around the Indian Ocean and some nest on the coast of Mozambique in Africa.
How they eat is equally interesting. These birds harass other flying birds until the other birds puke up their food. Then the frigate birds take the regurgitated food and eat it.
They can also fly over fish-feeding frenzies in the ocean and scoop up the fish who jump into the air in order to escape the feeding frenzy. The frenzies happen when big fish come upon schools of smaller fish and try to eat lots of them at once.
They’re great at just soaring without flapping their winds, like the albatross. One tagged Frigatebird soared for 40 miles without flapping his wings once.
Pretty amazing, eh?