Saturday, May 29, 2010

Blue streak

This photo almost got trashed, but then I noticed the blue dash:

Do you see it, towards the upper right? The swallows were zipping everywhere over the water, but I couldn't even aim the camera at them; they were gone already. Laurie caught this one by accident.

How fast do swallows fly, I wondered. So have other people; and helpful obsessives* have taken it upon themselves to answer the question.

Jonathan Corum calculated the speed of a European swallow at 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour. (Go look over his calculations; they're beautiful, as well.)  A commenter revised that down to 20 miles an hour; still plenty fast, if it's swooping by your head. And Wikipedia gives an overall average (all swallows) of 30 - 40 km/h for catching insects, and 50 -60 for travelling. (From 19 to 37 miles per hour.)

For comparison, a hummingbird travels at about 25 -30 mph, and dives at up to 60. An eagle flies between 20 - 60 mph, and dives at up to 100 mph. So the swallow is actually fairly slow, but their swooping, winding, back-and-forth style makes them hard to track, even by eye.

*I can relate.


  1. I assume you're familiar with the question as it was posed in Monty Python's The Holy Grail?

  2. Yes. What I got out of that is, when you want more questions, instead of answers, ask a king. If you want the answers, go to the web.


  3. We have tree swallows, violet-green swallows and barn swallows at our cabin. I love the way the do aerobatics with so much ease. - Margy

  4. Ah, but more questions often lead to the answers. Sometimes Kings are wise.


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