think so," Victor said. "But the point is that the male superb song
swifts, perhaps a dozen of them, should perform an aerial lek, thousands of
feet up, trying to impress a female—all kinds of extravagant figure eights and
loops and power dives."
"Do birds do
that sort of thing?" I asked.
yes," Rowlett said. "Hawks. Eagles. Ravens do barrel rolls to impress
the female. Hummingbirds."
they have to land to actually mate, don't they?" I asked.
swift family," Victor said. "They spend really an enormous part of
their lives on the wing. In fact, if a swift happened to land on the ground,
he'd be so ill-adapted to it that he probably couldn't get into the air again.
He does everything—bathes, eats, probably even sleeps and, certainly, mates in
ahem," I asked, "how do they manage the mating?"
"It isn't a
laborious matter," Victor said. "I mean, birds do it in just a second
or so. In the swifts' case, it's hardly ever been observed—because it happens
so high up and at such velocity. Presumably, for just an instant, the birds
touch, face on, vent to vent, in what could be described as an aerial cloacal
kiss—very fleeting, but enough."
missionary position," Rowlett added.
said. "It seems to me," I went on, "that the superb song swift
might be distinctive in that perhaps the species devotes a bit more time to it
than just a couple of seconds. I mean, couldn't the two of them tumble together
a couple of miles down through the air?"
"I don't see
anything wrong with that," Rowlett said.