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The Aerialists: One Tough Way to Make a Living

October 18, 2023 @ 7:00 pm 8:00 pm


All bird species in our area have the ability to fly, and many of them make contact with their food from the air. Less than 10 percent of these feed almost exclusively on flying prey. These are the aerialists: swallows, swifts, nighthawk, flycatchers, accipiters, and falcons.

There’s a simple reason why seed-eating species such as sparrows are so numerous: their food can’t escape. And while we rightfully marvel at a Red-tailed Hawk dropping on a vole, try catching an evasive insect traveling 6 inches above the ground while flying 25 to 45 miles per hour. Or attempt to single out a bird in flight from a twisting flock of 500 Dunlin. The slightest miscalculation will result in serious harm.

The aerialists are some of the most overlooked and underappreciated bird species. Each has its unique adaptations and habits that allow them to exploit food sources unavailable to other birds. Each also faces daunting challenges. All the aerialists — from the frequent flyer champ (the Barn Swallow) to the ultimate speed machine (the Peregrine Falcon)—share this particular characteristic: they have one tough way to make a living.

Steve and Martha Ellis, longtime Coupeville residents, will share the aerialists’ strategies Wednesday, October 18, 7 pm, at the Island County Multi-Purpose Center, 141 East Camano Drive. Steve is a past president of Whidbey Audubon Society and Martha is a member of the Washington Native Plant Society. Together they have been leading field trips and giving talks on a wide range of natural history topics for more than 30 years.

141 E Camano Dr
Camano Island, Washington 98282 United States
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