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Bird caught so many insects on the wing that their face swelled up

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A swift picked up so many insects on the wing at Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve, near Farnham, Surrey, UK that their face swelled up to resemble that of a seal. It is a highly unusual photograph of a bird and it is by Jon Hawkins/Solent News.

The photographer, 60, explained that swifts are just that; very quick flyers. They can reach speeds of almost 70 mph and they can collect more than 1000 insects in a pouch in their throat at any one time.

A swift picked up so many insects on the wing at Tice's Meadow Nature Reserve that their face swelled up

A swift picked up so many insects on the wing at Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve that their face swelled up

The insects are bound together by the saliva in their throat. It is called a bolus and such is its size that it causes the bird’s facial appearance to alter dramatically and appear distorted.

When they return to their nest it is regurgitated to feed their chicks. This wonderful bird spends 10 months of the year in flight. And while flying they eat, drink, sleep and even mate on the wing. They land to nest.

Jon says that some juvenile swifts won’t land for two years after fledging. You will never see them perched anywhere apart from when they are on the nest.

He also says that his image has captured something that cannot be seen normally with the naked eye because the swift is moving so quickly. Well done to Jon for this great capture. And it is an educational picture. I had no idea. I also had no idea that juvenile swifts can stay in the air for two years. I find that absolutely amazing.

The ordinary common swift is able to fly continuously for 10 months without touching down even for a second according to a study. It found that they can stay in the air for far longer than people had imagined.

Of the 13 common swifts that they monitored in the study none of them spent more than 0.5% of the time on the ground. In other words, they spend 99.5% of the time flying!

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