Migratory swifts put on ancient aerial show at a Western Wall emptied of people

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Jerusalem Old City’s colony, populated each spring by birds arriving from Africa, dates back 2,000 years, is likely one of world’s oldest

By AVIV LAVIE Today, 5:26 pm

 

Human activity can be detrimental to the swifts when the wall complex is kept bright by artificial light around the clock.

The wall is home to some 90 pairs of nesters, the Temple Mount complex has several hundred, and the capital likely has tens of thousands.

“This is one of the most amazing sights in the world of a mix between a heritage sight and bird watching,” Balaban said. “In China they nest in the tiles of ancient temples and here in the slits of the Western Wall and the old structures of the Old City.”

Swifts are monogamous. From the time they reach sexual maturity at 3 years old until their deaths, at around age 20, they remain in pairs.

Pairs of birds that have established their home at the Western Wall have a designated crack in the stones that they use for nesting season.

This year’s unseasonable rains are a boon to the swifts, causing an abundance of vegetation and insects, leading to competition over nesting spaces in the crowded wall, Balaban said.

Swifts spend most of their time in the air when they’re not nesting, he said.

“They sleep during flight while gliding on air currents. A swift is capable of falling asleep in Jerusalem and waking up in Jordan,” Balaban said.

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