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This is about (common) swifts. I know some things about them.

Because a very long time ago I raised one, which was very difficult, but also enjoyable.

On the way home from last day of school before summer holidays I saw some bird chick on the ground, next to a closed wall of bricks, on the walkway, between one-way street with heavy traffic and a steep hill on the other side. I didn't know what to do, except not to blindly grab it and take it home, because sometimes the parents come and feed them. So I stood back about a dozen meters and waited for half an hour. No bird parents came, traffic on the street roared on and on. Couldn't make sense of where it would have fallen off, couldn't put it back where it came from beacause blank wall of bricks 4 to 5 meters high to some backyard was closed to the street. No doors/gates or something like that. Walked around the block to find entry, unsuccessfully. Walked back to where the chick still was, sitting miserably on the ground, almost no feathers, just some dark gray fluff, pink skin shining through.

Stood there and thought: Should I, shouldn't I? What will Mommy say?

Knelt down to see if it had anything icky on it, which it hadn't and put it into the left cheat pocket of my shirt. Didn't even struggle. Just looked around with its tiny dark eyes.

Some twenty minutes later, at home, unexpectedly no storm of rage because bringing back strange animals. Instead phoning around for some veterinary who does birds.

I somehow had the feeling that timing was essential here, so I grabbed my street bicycle without having lunch and speeded to the veterinarian. Again with the chick in my left shirt pocket, was afraid it would try to get out, but it seemed content to just look out from there.

The veterinarian examined it under a light and looking glass and found a hand full of tiny mites. Eeek! I haven't seen them! Strangely there were none in my shirt pocket.

Anyways, vet couldn't make out what it was exactly, because too young, settled for mostly some sort of swift and told me what to expect, and that it was a stupid thing to do, because if swift this would never be my bird, because they are wild things, almost always in the air, and nobody ever successfully raised one so far.

I answered that I know it's no Budgie or Canary, that I waited for the parents to show up, which they didn't, couldn't locate where it came from to put it back there, so certain death by car, cat, starvation was imminent.

So I got some tubes with different gels in it, which I had to give the chick with the food. Which was a mix of living mealworms to be obtained from fishing ponds where people use them as bait, deep frozen crickets from pet food stores, raw minced meat with egg white and yolk mixed in, and any living insects I managed to shoot down with the rubber rings from preserving jars :-)

Every two hours, at least! 24/7! For two months! Ugh!

Anyways, I did it, went to a museum of natural history to speak with an ornithologist there. Drove there by subway with it in my shirtpocket again :-)

Ornithologist confirmed bias of vet towards common swift, and lend me some books, plus a list of more titles from the library for learning the swarming patterns, to which I should release it when they appear in the sky.

So my summer holidays were effectively gone by having to care for it around the clock, without pauses longer than two hours. I didn't really mind, and chick neither. It grew into something very streamlined, very dark brown and shiny feathers. It was primed to me and not afraid. I could put it onto my shoulder and it stayed there.

I worried a little about it being so lazy, so I trained it by putting it into my hands while standing, and then going down fast with my hands, to let its instincts kick in. Which they did, by spreading its wings.

Later, when it made strange rattling sounds by rhythmically spreading its wings to get the feathers out of their growing sheets and I found it on top of the curtains when coming back into the room, I knew it was time to get it to fly.

Which I did by having it sit on my shoulder while bicycling around at 40 to 60 km/h in the forest on excellently paved ways.

At first it didn't let go of my shirt, just spread its wings and lifting it a little, or beating its wings and tickling the side of my head that way. But it wouldn't let go!

I had to go to about 40km/h with the bird in one hand and only one hand on the handlebar, then throwing it UP!

Screech! Screech! Back to my shoulders. Hrrmpf. I repeated that I don't know how often anymore until I had it flying after me for some minutes without immediately going back to my shoulders.

I extended these "lessons" to places where I knew there were many insects in the air, like standing ponds, fields with cows on them, and it worked, it just got its flies from the air!

Seeing it doing that really took a burden from my mind.

Took it ontop the tower of some castle ruin, over bridges over rivers, onto watch towers in the forest, tried to show it all it could be confronted with in its life within my means, which meant from my shoulder while racing my bicycle.

It really liked me going downhill from the forest back home at anywhere between 65km/h to 85km/h tops for maybe 20 seconds.

It also liked sitting squat on my chest while I laid on my back, wings half spread, eyes closed, me very lightly stroking its head with one finger... cheelp, cheelp If it were a cat it would have purred.

Also it never shat on me. Neither into the nest which I've built for it into the corner of the room, onto a halfheight cabinet out of some towels. Always nicely outside, onto the old newspapers which I put under and around it. Clean bird!

Then the time came to throw it up into the swarms, like I intended from the beginning. Took me about ten times until I could see it fly towards the swarm without coming back.

Instincts kicking in, Mission Accomplished! Proud and sad at the same time.

Called the vet which wouldn't believe at first, and then told her what I did, how, in which sequence and so on.

Moved away from there shortly after, so I don't know if it came back some time, hope it didn't get caught in the nets which some people in the south raise to catch them for food.

Anyways, about 30 years later I came back home to see a bird on the ground of the long hallway. It was a common swift, somehow got caught in there, with no way out. I tried to slowly grab it, but it panicked, tried to fly away, bumped into the glass, against the wall, so I stopped trying to grab it.

Thought a little, went for a towel to throw that over it, came back, havn't even spread the towl yet, it fluttered again, spread my arms wide to stop it, then it bumped into my belly and clawed into my windjacket there.

I slowly lowered my arms and stood very still for a minute, then tiptoed the long floor, down the stairs, away from the house, stood very still again, looked at it. It looked back. After a minute or so I asked "don't you want to be back with your swarm?"

And it let itself fall down backwards over one wing, and going up to the swarm which was there at the time.

A few days later, me on the balcony, seeing and hearing the swarm again I thought to myself: why not putting back on the very yellow wind jacket I wore when I rescued that swift?

I did so, and one little fellow came down to do some aerobatics a few meters from my face, loudly cheeping and chirrping.

They do remember and recognize you. I'm sure of that!

The really strange thing is it looked exactly like pictures of common swifts, except of the white. What is white on them was something like bronze/copper on mine, depending on the light.

I must mirror what many other have said -- this is one of the more interesting and hopeful things I've read, not only on HN, but any place. Thank you for taking the time to share. And best wishes to you and your bird's offspring. You've done a good thing, worthy of celebration.

Thanks so much for sharing this great story. It's one of the best things I've ever read on HN.

Could the mites you mention be Louse Flies which are common Swifts? I used to live in apartment with many Swifts nesting under roof and a lot of these small unkillable critters (could survive being stepped on) crawled through cracks in the walls. They are not charming. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippoboscidae

I can't tell exactly anymore? I just remember standing next to the vet, while she picked them off of it on a table with tweezers. Under bright lights and a looking/magnifying glass on a flexible arm. They've been maybe a millimeter long, at max. 2mm ? I could barely see them, if not for the bright lights and they being black brownish on a white sheet.

edit: This had to be the summer of 1981, 1982 or 1983, not later.

I wish there was a better platform for sharing and saving stories like this. HN, Reddit, blogs, are all at the whims of companies and moderators, under the sword of Damocles.

Maybe something like Git repositories that readers could clone and archive on their local storage?

Thank you. Great story, great storytelling.

Fix the 40km/h bike rides and the 85km/h downhill with a bird on your shoulder, and apart from that it’s a cool story.

Hey, there is nothing to fix(apart from some typos which I can't edit anymore).

This is real and happened exactly as I wrote. At that point in time I've been that fast. I can be that fast today (the 40km/h I mean) even on a vintage bike with only 3 geared wheel hub, though it takes more effort, and not for more than a few minutes. On very good days I could hold 55 to 60km/h for maybe 30 minutes without headwind on flat grounds, and peaked 70+ for 1 to 2 minutes also.

There was a sports club called RSC(Radsport Club) Sturmvogel(stormbird) at the time, which trained in the forest where I rode too. I've always been faster than anyone of them, and generally one of the fastest of maybe a hand full of unidentified bicycling objects at the time there.

One tends to notice the faces, frames, routes and times when doing it as intensive as I did.

Let's just say I've been mostly unimpressed with Tour de France when it ran on the TV at the times?

Because I did it alone, without fanfare, much less expensive bicycles, no formal training, no car bringing a spare bike if mine had a problem, and...oh err yes....no doping at all!


Regarding the bird on my shoulder, it was safe there as long as it could claw into my shirt. They (the swifts) don't like to stand on their thin legs, they prefer to hang from some wall more. So it either sat there, hanging back and down my back somewhat while I've been bend forward like you do on a racing bicycle, or in front of me somewhere around my neck, always looking around to all sides.

I don't know how to put this exactly, but when you spend so much time with them while they grow up you know them, not completely, but you can tell when they feel good.

And I'm telling you it had fun as in visibly enjoing it while I did that downhilling.


edit: OFC I had fun also, because speed is what I need!

You don't believe those speeds are possible?

When I was commuting to work before the pandemic, I would regularly keep up with city traffic at 40 km/h on a level road for up to a few minutes at a time. (Now that they'll be lowering the speed limit from 25 to 20 mph, I'll be able to break the speed limit if I wish.)

I've only once gotten up to 72 km/h on a downhill, keeping pace with traffic on a highway with a long downslope. I don't think I want to do it again, since the bike started to give a rather worrying 8 Hz shimmy, but I did it. I probably could have done 85 km/h if I'd kept it up continuously rather than sometimes coasting to keep my spacing.

Both of these require me to give it pretty much all my power in my highest gear, but this is on a hybrid commuter bike with a full pannier and an 85 kg rider.

I'm no star athlete. These speeds are well within normal bounds.

The shimmies! I've forgotten about them :-) Had them at 65. They were very unexpected when they happened the first time. And were gone at 67/68 again. I think they result from imbalances in the rims, due to the valves. And it varies with different frames-

It's actually part of how I know how fast I was going that one time. :-)

I was on a 45mph speed limit road and I was keeping up with the cars, but I wasn't sure if they were following the limit. But I was later able to tap at the same frequency while looking at a watch and discovered it was about 8 Hz, and then took the outer circumference of my tire and calculated that it was about 45 mph as well assuming that an imbalance in the wheel or tire was the source.

(My video camera had also caught some mile markers, but my speed varied in between, so those were only corroborative.)

They do remember and recognize you. I'm sure of that!

Don't want to rob you from that emotion but Swifts can't live for 30 years.

I didn't mean to imply it was the same bird. That would be really unlikely, not only by the time, but also the different place i live in now. Just that it remembered at least my signal yellow wind jacket, and deemed it worthy to come down from the high up swarm alone and doing aerobatics for a few seconds while making untypical sounds in front of my face.

Why else should it do that(alone), apart from its swarm maybe 50 to 100meters up, not coming with it?

So what i meant to say was rather something like they(wild Birds in general) do remember you, even though not being grown up with/by humans.

Maybe it was morphic resonance.

I assumed that was “a few days later”, a second swift, not the one from 30 years earlier.

I believe OP was referencing the bird rescued when coming back home, which came back a few days later, not the one 30 years ago which OP never saw again.

Great story, thank you for sharing.

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for sharing your story! Priceless.

Amazing experience

You hack our news

Awesome storytelling, thank you

Amazing! Thanks for writing.

That was wonderful to read

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