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I saw my last Chimney Swifts Monday, heading south. Yesterday, I saw what appeared to be Chimney Swifts hawking for insects over downtown Independence. At first, was sure they were swifts because they were fluttering their wings just like swifts. However, when I got closer, they turned out to be starlings.
 
I had noticed starlings flying around like swifts in mid-October for quite a few years, but, until yesterday, I never noticed how swift-like their flight could be. Seeing them flutter their wings just like swifts raises all sorts of interesting questions. How do they learn to fly so much like swifts when they are behaving differently for so much of the rest of the year? Do starlings (which originally came here from England) emulate the different species of swift that flies over European cities?  Why do the swifts leave when they do if there are still plenty of insects up there for the Starlings to catch? Why do Chimney Swifts leave the U.S. completely in winter, although winter conditions in the southernmost states may be less cold (and therefore less devoid of high flying insects) than they are when the swifts arrive in spring and just before they leave in fall? Starlings are migrants in Europe. Why do they hang around in northern U.S. cities through even the coldest winters?
 
These sorts of questions keep me thinking about birds when the rarities are few and far between as I drive around town and while I sit at the computer.
 
Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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