Birds who hunt insects while in flight are known as aerial insectivores. These birds are able to perform exceptional in-flight turns and adjust their flight speeds. Some of them can even spend hours continuously in flight making them efficient hunters (check out this video of swallows feeding near our office in Mississauga).
Swifts are masters of the skies, able to fly for hours without landing. You might also recognize swallows and flycatchers, other bug-hunting birds. This ability to catch insects in flight is actually known as “hawking” because it’s similar to the way hawks snatch their prey in flight. Instead of catching their prey with their feet, aerial insectivores capture prey in their bills.
Who or what are they catching? Aerial insectivores feed on a variety of insects such as moths, dragonflies, bees, butterflies, flies, flying beetles and even mosquitoes.
Overall, insect populations are declining. Many flying insects start their life cycles in water. Changing water temperatures, water levels and flows, and contamination can affect flying insects. Their declines may be significantly causing population declines in the birds that feed on them. A number of bug hunting birds are now classified as species at risk.
Join us on Saturday, June 1 at Bug Hunting Birds – The Acrobats of our Skies. Learn more about the vital connections between birds and bugs. Explore aquatic life at Terra Cotta Conservation Area and spot the birds who eat them. Discover what you can do on your property to help these birds survive.