The Greatest Bird On Earth


I am not a bird person exactly. Well, I have known birds, seen some from up close. But I couldn’t tell a story a bout birds like this one here.

G. J. Gamble

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No British summer would be complete without the screech of Swifts darting overhead. This distinctive call is incomparably evocative of a blissful, warm summers day; for me a trigger of childhood memories playing out in the fields during ever-lasting school breaks or later, time spent in a third-floor apartment in St Ives, Cornwall (heaven!) where, once evening fell, a group of overzealous Swifts would rise up steep streets from the town below and erupt volcano-like inches from the old wooden window frames, plucking insects from the humid air at what seemed a million miles per hour, screeches reverberating so loud as if they were all but in the room before squealing excitedly back into the streets below, their whistle trailing off like a distant firework.

Now I’m more content to whittle away summer evenings watching and listening to the Swifts high above my home and the fields next-door from the…

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

16 thoughts on “The Greatest Bird On Earth

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    Thanks so much for reblogging this. It is a great story. I knew swifts were wonderful (also that we’re desperately short of them in the UK these days) but not what very, very extraordinary life forms they are.

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  2. judyt54 says:

    I love swifts, barn swallows, tree swallows. Sadly we had to ‘roof over’ our chimneys last year to keep the swifts from colonizing them, and when we lost our barn, the barn swallows left for better quarters. As a kid I used to love sitting in the barn, watching them fly in and out…

    but our tree swallows are very similar to swifts, so we sit on the porch and watch, and listen…our swifts in this country don’t make those sounds that you describe, it’s more of a high pitched twittery call…

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  3. Arkenaten says:

    We get Barn Swallows and Pearl Breasted Swallows at our spot, ( not Swifts as far as I know) and they dart all over the place in summer when there are loads of insects about.

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  4. In front of our apartment building, we have lovely evergreen conifer trees that provide habitat for a variety of birds particularly house sparrows, starlings, stellar jays, scrub jays, doves, and crows. We also regularly get visits from mallard ducks, Canadian geese, red tail hawks and other raptors. Just around the corner at the local store, seagulls are ubiquitous. At short distance away over the hill, golden eagles roam the skies.

    From my second-story vantage-point, it is easy to watch their behavior and interactions which is fascinating and highly entertaining. House sparrows and starlings sometimes fly recklessly and could use some safety training. Doves and crows, for some reason, do not like each other. Jays are some of the most mischievous creatures I’ve ever observed. Golden eagles appear to have a serious attitude problem, and I suggest they get some psychiatric help. I love bird brains!

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  5. nannus says:

    The sound and site of the swifts: that is summer!
    And they are really astonishing birds. After breeding here in Europe, the take to the air and remain airborne for months nonstop. They get their food and liquid from the insects they catch and probably they sleep with half a brain at a time. These birds are a constant source of fascination to me.

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  6. Nan says:

    I’m not in any way a “bird” person. I know we have a fair amount of visitors to our yard and I do recognize pigeons (beautiful, but messy), doves, robins, woodpeckers, blue jays, an occasional hawk, and of course, various sparrows. (There might be a “Swift,” in the mix, but I wouldn’t have a clue.)

    Apparently, Meadowlark is the State bird, so there’s probably some of them flying around as well.

    My other-half puts out feeders during the cooler months so we do get a fair assortment of visitors.

    Interesting point … we also have a hummingbird feeder — which the woodpecker (!) has been using along with the hummers.

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