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Living with Birds 21 Facts on Swift Tweetapedia

21 Facts

Swift

  1. Swifts spend just three months of the year in Britain, arriving in early May and leaving in early August. This is a shorter period than any of our breeding birds other than the cuckoo.
  2. They spend their winters well south of the Sahara: British-ringed birds have been recovered in the Congo Basin, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
  3. We still don’t know what routes the birds use to and from their wintering grounds.
  4. A young swift, ringed in Oxford on 31 July, was killed in Madrid on 3 August, having covered 1,300km in three days.
  5. Historically, swifts nested in holes high in large trees. They still do so in old Scots pines in Scotland’s Abernethy Forest.
  6. Today almost all swifts nest in colonies under the eaves of old buildings.
  7. They are long-lived birds, reflected in the fact that they lay just two or three eggs in a clutch, and only attempt to rear a single brood a year.
  8. Swifts are monogamous, and the same pairs will breed together in successive years.
  9. We find it impossible to tell the sexes apart, even when the bird is in the hand.
  10. No one knows whether pairs remain in contact with each other outside the breeding season.
  11. Swifts are creatures of the air: they roost on the wing, and are not thought to land between one breeding season and the next.
  12. Such an aerial lifestyle means that they even mate on the wing.
  13. Because they are totally dependent on airborne prey they are very susceptible to bad weather during the breeding season, when a lack of food often results in chicks starving to death.
  14. Young swifts can survive without food for up to 48 hours, lapsing into a semi-torpid state.
  15. The adult swifts migrate south within days of the chicks leaving the nest.
  16. Swifts feed at a higher elevation than both swallows and martins.
  17. They like to feed in the unstable air to the rear of a weather depression, where there is often a great abundance of insect life.
  18. Feeding birds will routinely fly great distances: British breeding birds have been found over Germany.
  19. Swifts have tiny feet and almost no legs, adaptations to their aerial lifestyle.
  20. Contrary to rumour, adult swifts can take off from a flat surface, though they rarely have to do so. Juveniles do have difficulties.
  21. The swifts’ closest genetic relations are the hummingbirds; they are not related to swallows or martins.
21 Facts On Swift I1