Science

Tiny house-living with the Whiskered Treeswift

As an amateur nature buff, I’m constantly amazed and surprised by the experts around me – these are people with a fantastic amount of knowledge, who are normally more than willing to share. I’ve developed small obsessions with Alie Ward’s ‘Ologies’ podcast, been tipped off to the wonders of the Knepp Wildland Rewildling podcast by UEA’s Conservation and Wildlife Society and, most recently, discovered the Gay Birder’s Club: an LGBT+ inclusive, international network of friendly ornithologists and birdwatchers. Whilst scrolling through their Facebook group, I came upon this master minimalist: the whiskered treeswift (Hemiprocne comata).

The whiskered treeswift is native to southeast Asia and the south Pacific, although some have also found their way to Australia. It is the smallest of the treeswift family, Hemiprocne, and is native to subtropical or tropical forests in the lowlands and mountain slopes and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests. The whiskered treeswift is not a true swift – however, this actually benefits the plucky little bird – swifts can’t roost on branches, whereas this whiskered fellow has mastered the art of balancing their livelihood on a slender branch. Treeswifts construct miniscule nests, big enough for a singular egg, using a combination of feathers, plant matter and saliva. This tiny, downy nest is effectively glued to the branch with tremendously sticky saliva. The whole nest is so small that the whiskered tree swift can hide it’s precious egg cargo right in plain sight – within its own, downy feathers. 


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04/05/2021

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Meg Watts


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