07-03-03

Two co-workers, Ben and Merry, approached my desk just after lunch today. Ben had his hands cupped around a small bird they had found on University Avenue near Borders. I looked at it for a moment and assumed it was a young Tree Swallow, but something didn't seem quite right. The pattern was of dark and light was indistinct, but it had some faint whitish markings on the rump, and its wings seemed exceptionally long. I considered Violet-green Swallow then, but that didn't feel right either. As I looked more closely I noticed that its feet were odd--the toes were quite short and seemed to be oriented forward, like a human hand. Yes! This was not a swallow at all, but a White-throated Swift! Then, as if on cue, it gave its distinctive downward chattering call and the mystery was solved. I was reminded again that having a bird in your hand often complicates the identification process, especially with young birds, because we depend so much on flight style, behavior and sound to guide us... Normally, I don't like to interfer in the process of natural selection, but having never seen a young Swift, and knowing also that its parents are not capable of landing on the ground to feed their chick, I called Kelly to pick up the bird and take it to Wildlife Rescue at Cubberly School. With luck, they will be able to nurse it back to health and it will join the legions of other Swifts that streak over University and Hamilton in the downtown area.