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Swifts in a tower

Author: David Lack
Publisher: London, Chapman and Hall [Distributed in the U.S.A. by Halstead Press, New York], [1973]
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
The swift has greater mastery of the air than any other bird, but is one of the least known, as it nests inaccessibly in holes. The Author studied a colony in an Oxford tower, by substituting glass-backed nesting boxes for the ventilators in which they were nesting ; after which the birds could be watched from a few inches away, thus providing unique means of studying them. Their flight (which may last five hours),  Read more...
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Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Lack, David Lambert.
Swifts in a tower.
London, Chapman and Hall [Distributed in the U.S.A. by Halstead Press, New York, 1973]
(OCoLC)686124406
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: David Lack
ISBN: 0412121700 9780412121708
OCLC Number: 797711
Notes: Reprint of 1956 ed.
Description: 239 pages illustrations 20 cm
Contents: Introduction --
The tower --
Settling in, and the fight for homes --
Courtship --
The nest --
Laying and incubation --
The naked nestling --
The feathered nestling --
Feeding habits --
Flight --
Swifts at night --
Winter sleep --
Weather movements --
Migration --
The races of swifts --
The birth-rate --
Death and its causes --
The meaning of adaptation.
Responsibility: [by] David Lack.

Abstract:

The swift has greater mastery of the air than any other bird, but is one of the least known, as it nests inaccessibly in holes. The Author studied a colony in an Oxford tower, by substituting glass-backed nesting boxes for the ventilators in which they were nesting ; after which the birds could be watched from a few inches away, thus providing unique means of studying them. Their flight (which may last five hours), courtship and nesting behaviour were fully studied, and have been illustrated with unique photographs by electornic flash by H. N. Southern. Behaviour in the air was also observed, swifts being the only birds known to mate on the wing. They also drink, bathe and collect their food and nesting materials without alighting, and even spend the night on the wing. Swifts migrate to South Africa, but the old story that they hibernate contains some element of truth. The races of swifts are described, their birth-rate and death-rate analysed, and comparisons are made with the many tropical swifts, some of which (such as those whose nests provide 'Birds-nest soup') have habits as remarkable as those of our British bird. When first published in 1956, this book was the first full-length study of perhaps the most remarkable of all British birds, and now seventeen years later has become a classic in its field. Not only is it an invaluable text for ornithologists, but its non-technical language makes it suitable for readers with a general interest in natural history. Just below the tower where the swifts nested, Samuel Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley held their famous debate on evolution, and adaptation forms a recurrent theme in the book, its wider implications being considered in a final chapter. -- from dust jacket.

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