616. ALPINE SWIFT.
Cypselus melba (Linn.), Syst. Nat. i. p. 345 (1766) ; Naum. vi. p. 115, Taf. 147, fig. 1 ; Hewitson, i. p, 269, pl. lxv. fig. 6 ; Gould, B. of E. ii. pl. 35, fig. 2 ; id. 15. of Gt. Brit. ii. pl. 4 ; Newton, ii. p. 372 ; Dresser, iv. p. 603, pl. 269 ; (Hartert), Cat. B. Br. Mus. xvi. p. 438 ; Blanf. F. Brit. Ind. Birds, iii. p. 164 ; Saunders, p. 265 ; Lilford, ii. p. 40, pl. 17 ; C. alpinus (Scopoli), Ann. i. Hist. Nat. p. 166 (1769).
Martinet cl ventre blanc, French ; Andorinhao gaivao, Portug. ; Avion, Span. ; Rondone de mare, Ital. ; Alpensegler, Germ. ; Stresh-belobrukey Russ.
Male ad. (Switzerland). Upper parts, with sides of the head and neck, flanks, under wing- and tail-coverts, and a band across the breast brown, the back lighter and with a faint metallic gloss, the under wing-coverts with narrow terminal margins ; chin, throat, lower breast, and abdomen white ; bill blackish ; feet dull yellowish brown ; iris dark brown ; tarsus covered in front with brown feathers. Gape 1.0, wing 8.7, tail 3.8, tarsus 0.6 inch. Sexes alike. The young bird is greyer and darker, and the brown feathers are margined with white.
Hab. South Europe, north to the Alps, of rare occurrence in northern France, England, Germany, and Heligoland ; north Africa ; Asia as far east as Darling and Assam, and south to Ceylon ; in South Africa it is replaced by a closely allied species C. africanus, Temm.
This, the largest of our Swifts, is, like its allies, essentially a bird of the air, and seldom perches, being unable to raise itself from the level ground if it falls. It is gregarious and obtains its food, which consists of small winged insects, when on the wing. Its note is a loud harsh scream, frequently uttered. It breeds in communities, placing its nest, which is constructed of straws, grass-bents, leaves, and feathers worked together with the viscous spittle which the bird secretes, in an old building or a suitable cranny in the rocks. The eggs are pure white, without gloss, 3 to 4 in number, are usually deposited in May or June, and measure about 1.21 by 0.75.
616. Cypselus melba
616. ALPINE SWIFT.