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
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.