What are these birds?
October 9, 2010 9:09 AM   Subscribe

What are these birds?

I saw these birds at the archaeological site of Ani, up against the Armenian border in the far east of Turkey. They're grey and brown, about the size of swifts and with a swift-like flight pattern (so, uh, I'm pretty sure they're a species of swift). But they stop and perch happily, unlike the hyperactive swifts I know from Europe and other bits of the Middle East. And, of course, they're a different colour.

Sorry about the not-very-clear photo; it's cropped from a much bigger image, and it was the closest I could get with a wide-angle lens. I'm not sure what the one on the right is doing with its head--anyone want to tell me?

posted by lapsangsouchong to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
They look like swallows. In North America, we have rough-winged swallows, and the ones in your photo look similar, and may be a Eurasian relative. Swallows zoom around like swifts but also spend time just sitting around.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2010

I'm not sure what the one on the right is doing with its head--anyone want to tell me?

Hard to say from a static shot but I'd say its preening - or preparing to go to sleep.
posted by missmagenta at 9:39 AM on October 9, 2010

I don't know if you saw the birds in motion or only noticed them after you developed your pictures put this blog has some great pictures of a mocking bird preening. Might help you decide if that's what you saw it doing.
posted by missmagenta at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2010

Could be a crag martin (wiki).
posted by gubo at 1:24 PM on October 9, 2010

I think gubo's got it. Right sort of size, shape, range, colouring... I thought the wings were proportionately a little broader and longer, but that could just have been an effect of seeing them swoop past at high speed.

As for the one on the right, yes, it'd be preening, of course. I knew the birds were there--took this picture precisely in order to ask this question, in fact--but they were too small in the picture and too distant in real life for me to see what they were doing. Also, they were perched on a bit of carved stonework in a beautiful medieval ruin with frescoes, so there were a few distractions that got edited out of the picture I just posted (!). Thanks for the mockingbird link, really good.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:35 PM on October 9, 2010

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