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First published in 1956, Swifts in a Tower still offers astonishing insights into swifts' private lives along with thoughts about their life style and wider issues. Now more than sixty years later swifts have been studied even more thoroughly, with technology unimaginable in the 1950s. This continues to reveal even more of their secrets, so this edition, published in association with the RSPB for their Oxford Swift City project includes a new chapter by Andrew Lack, bringing the story of this remarkable bird into the 21st Century.
David Lack (1910-1973) is one of the most celebrated names in the study of birds. His pioneering life-history studies resulted in an explosion of interest in the ecology of birds as well as the landmark popular books The Life of the Robin, Darwin's Finches, and Swifts in a Tower. Even during World War II he was able to study bird migration while involved in secret work to develop radar. In 1945 he became the Director of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology in Oxford and started research programmes – including on swifts – that continue right to this day.
"[...] The first edition of the book, published in 1956, was a considerable success. But is there any point in a second edition of a book published over 60 years ago? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’, even if you have the first edition, for there is much new material. Lack himself continued to observe the swifts in the tower for several more years and the study was then continued, partly by other members of the EGI but mainly by two amateur ornithologists, Roy Overall and George Candelin. The results of this further work, and of work by other people in other places, are presented in a long final chapter in the new edition, both expanding our knowledge of this remarkable bird and showing how much there is still to be discovered. The new edition also benefits from a complete replacement of the original photographs – outstanding in their time, but primitive alongside today’s well-lit, sharp and in-colour examples."
– Jeremy Greenwood, British Wildlife 29(6), August 2018