Order - Apodiformes
(Swifts & Hummingbirds)


The bird order Apodiformes contains three living families: swifts (Apodidae), tree swifts (Hemiprochnidae), and hummingbirds (Trochilidae). With over 450 species to date, they are one of the most diverse orders of birds. The word Apodiforme means "footless" so, as their name suggests, hummingbirds' legs are very short and aren't of much use aside from perching. Their feet are covered in a thin layer of bare skin instead of scales like most other birds. Another shared characteristic is long wings with short, stout humerus bones. This provides hummingbirds with ideal wing for hovering.


The swifts are a family of highly aerial birds. They are somewhat similar to swallows but are nto cloesly related at all. The swifts' scientific name comes from Greek ancestory and it means "without feet." Since swifts have such short legs, they rarely settle voluntarily on the ground. Even the common swift cruises at 5-14 meters per second and is capable of 60 meters per second but only for short bursts. In just one year, the common swift can cover at least 200,000km. Swifts have a worldwide spread in arctic and temperate areas, but like swallows and martins, they are strongly migratory and they spend their winters in the tropics. Some species of swifts can survive cold weather for short periods by entering a state similar to hibernation. Many have a characteristic shape, with a short forked tail and long swept-back wings.


The tree swifts or crested swifts are closely related to true swifts. Tree swifts are small to medium sized swifts and they range in length 15-30cm. They have long wings, with most of the length coming from the length of their flight feathers; their arms are actually very short. They visibly differ from other swifts in a few different ways. For one, their feathers are much softer, they have facial ornaments such as cresents, and they have long forked tails. The tree swifts exhibit a whide range of habitat preferences. These range from plantations to magrove forests to hill forests. All species feed on insects, although exact details of what prey are taken has not been studied in detail. Nest building responsibilities are shared by the male and female. They lay one egg in the nest, which is glues to an open tree branch.


Author: Hannah Spanke  Date: 9/09