[birding] More Linn Black Swifts

M & R Campbell campbell at peak.org
Wed Sep 16 12:57:04 PDT 2009

Just after noon today we had two (I think) BLACK SWIFTS over the river here in Peoria, with a large number of swallows.  I didn't have my field glasses when I first saw them, and noticed them only because they were with a large flock of white-bellied swallows, which I hadn't seen in awhile.  What I first thought was an odd Barn Swallow just above the water turned out to be a swift.  After running 200 yds to get my field glasses, I was able to get some looks from just about every angle, though, because of the cloud cover, without any direct sunlight.  

This is the third time I've seen Black Swifts here in Peoria this fall, after being alerted a couple weeks ago via birding lists.  Each time they've been with swallows and they've been flying lower than the tops of the tallest trees.  In the past I had always expected them to be higher, forced down just under the cloud cover, and in the past I usually brushed off the big swallow conventions as just swallows.  But Black Swifts do a fair swallow imitation, appearing roughly the same size, flapping more slowly than Vaux's, gliding a fair amount of the time, changing direction erratically, and--to my surprise--sometimes even skimming the water.  I'd say that the one's I've seen aren't as black as in the Sibley illustration, but are a dark gray-brown on the throat and breast, as in the National Geographic plate, with a black well around the eye.  They fan their tails fairly often.

>From now on, on overcast fall days I will be scanning the large swallow flocks over the Willamette for large, dark swifts.

Randy Campbell

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