House are tailor-made for swifts

(No.8, Vol.4,Sep-Oct 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Swifts are migratory, and often seen as signals for spring. But that is not the case in Dalat, which is home to the little swift, or house swift. Its scientific name is Apus affinis. Vietnamese ornithologists call them ‘Chim yến cằm trắng’ (white-chin swift).
It is not hard to find a little swift in Dalat. People who love Dalat’s environment can catch the sight of this ‘angel’ bird flying in the sky at almost any time. However, most people mistake them for other kinds of birds. While swifts usually live in remote islands or coastal areas, Dalat’s little swifts, surprisingly, reside in town, in old French villas. And there are about 2,000 such villas in Dalat.
Why does the little swift choose the urban area for a residence, instead of a pine forest or somewhere else far from noise? Scientists are on their way to find out the reason.
Research at Dalat University shows that the little swifts live in pairs. They are deeply attached to their loved ones. They eat together, hunt together and build their nests together. They alternately hatch eggs and raise their chicks. Each pair of little swifts lives a monogamous life. In case one of them dies, the other one will live alone for the rest of its life. There are hundreds of little swift pairs living in one location for years, but they will never fight for a home; they build or fix a nest for their own. The little swifts build their nest with their saliva and other stuff. Their nests are edible, but not as valuable as those of the edible-nest swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga). Most of their activities happen when they fly: combing their feathers, playing around, having sex and sometimes also sleeping. They don’t know how to walk, run, hop or swim.
In Indonesia, people take eggs of edible-nest swiftlets and put them into nests of other, shore-dwelling swifts, let them hatch and raise the baby edible-nest swiftlets. The generation of these young chicks will grow up, build their nests and live on land. Based on this method, people invest in building houses for these birds on large scales, farming them for their edible nests.
Will Dalat swifts be able to take charge of being parents for edible-nest swiflet babies? Khanh Hoa Salanganes Nest Company is conceiving of a plan for this.

text and photos by Nguyen Hang Tinh
Following the tunes (“Spring comes to Muong Hum hamlet high up the mountains with heart-rocking distant singing…” ) of talented composer Nguyen Tai ...
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