Thursday, February 20, 2020

Barn Swallow

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

     Barn Swallows have extraordinary features that not only make them worthy of a Sunday afternoon thriller if you’re looking for bird watching that ranks amongst the best representation of flying daredevils on the planet, they have pageantry in their blood as well. These birds not only show off their flying ace skills, they exude magnetism simply by sitting on a wire. This latter part I notice a lot because birds are expressive in their presence alone. A bird that sits on a wire gives me time to study and appreciate its personality, and these birds have personalities to boot. 
     Barn Swallows have perhaps the largest wings relative to their body mass amongst all birds and are described as an intrinsically maneuverable species. That means they fly with fixed wings more often than flapping, just like vultures, bald eagles, ospreys, hawks and condors, to name a few. They are known for spending considerable amounts of time gliding through the air versus flapping. Conversely, most small birds flap their wings constantly to stay aloft. These birds are referred to as facultatively maneuverable.
     Swallows are also known to take advantage of the ground effect, a term used to describe reduced drag when flying close to the earth, whether over land or water. When these birds fly low, within one wing-length from the earth, they experience increased air pressure under their wings, making it easier for them to fly. So, the next time you see barn swallows foraging low to the ground, just know they’re reserving a lot of flapping power and saving precious energy for those times they need to fly up, over, and around big obstacles (like me!).



References
Warrick, Douglas R., et al. "Foraging at the Edge of the World: Low-Altitude, High-Speed Manoeuvering in Barn Swallows." Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, vol. 371, no. 1704, 2016, pp. 1-11., www.jstor.org/stable/24769382. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.



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