The Swift Tower at the Oxford Museum of Natural History
Image by Sarah Pitt.
THE OXFORD SWIFT RESEARCH PROJECT
The swift is a bird so well suited to life in the air it can barely use its legs to stand - indeed as a master of the sky it eats, sleeps, collects nesting materials, drinks and mates in the air, only alighting at its precarious nest to feed young hatchlings.
Renowned Oxford ornithologist David Lack started his study of Swifts in 1947. He noticed they were breeding in the disused ventilation shafts on the tower of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Today the Oxford Swifts Research Project thrives and is the longest running ornithological study in the world. Saving Species correspondent Sarah Pitt went to Oxford to meet Elizabeth Lack, now in her 90’s, who worked as a Research Assistant with her husband when the project began and Roy Overall, Honorary Research Associate, who has ringed and recorded swift activity since the 1960’s. The nest boxes, initially erected by David Lack, are still at the top of the University Museum Tower; in June this year he recorded 53 active nests and 81 young being reared in the Tower.
David Lack became one of the most influential biologists of his generation, remembered hugely for his work on swifts but also his fundamental contribution to the understanding of nature through his work at Oxford.
Swifts in a nest
Young Swifts almost ready to fly off to Africa.
Image by Erich Kaiser, courtesy of Swift Conservation
Swift in Flight
Swift catching insect in flight.
Image by Amir Ben Dov, courtesy of Swift Conservation
Image by Brett Westwood
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