For swifts, the ability to fly is a matter of life of death.
“They’re permanent fliers,” Shmulik Landau, head keeper at the Israeli Wildlife Hospital, explained to ISRAEL21c. “Swifts spend their lives flying. They are on the ground for breeding season. Once a chick takes flight, it will fly for about two or three years and only land again when it’s time to breed.”
Swifts do not even land to sleep or eat, so when an Israeli couple found a young bird in their bathroom and took it to the animal hospital for help, the veterinarians knew something was terribly wrong.
The bird had broken flight feathers. Without intervention, the young bird would have surely died.
Unwilling to give up on the bird, Israeli Wildlife Hospital contacted Frankfurt Swifts Clinic. As luck would have it, one of the avian biologists just so happened to be on her way from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan Safari at the time.
Tina Steigerwald offered to come to Israeli Wildlife Hospital and help out the young swift, carrying the donor feathers and the tools needed for the delicate surgery with her all the way from Germany.
Landau said the feather transplant – known as imping – was a first for the Israeli Wildlife Hospital and they could not have done it without Frankfurt Swifts Clinic.
After waking up from surgery, the young male bird was soon eating. After spending time growing stronger in a protected enclosure at the hospital, the swift was strong enough to fly and was returned to the skies.
While Landau said they are not tracking the bird, the team expects “he’ll make it because we had time to watch him before he was released to the wild.”
He also said while the bird is likely on his way to Africa at this point, he will likely return to Israel in a few years where he will again land, this time to mate.