DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Common Swift

To witness the aerial skills displayed by the swift as they scream around the roof tops on a still summers evening is a privilege, and they are an integral part of this time of the year here in the north of England. However, by the end of August they will leave on their long , danger filled journey, yet within a week a young swift may be as far south as Madrid.

Swift in flight--Photograph courtesy of Pawel Kuzniar CC BY -SA 3.0 License.

Description of the Common Swift. Apus apus.

The plumage of the swift is blackish brown except for the whitish throat, which is more prominent in juveniles.The tail is forked.Beak is black. Black feet. In relation to its body size the wings are long, tail-medium long, neck short, beak very short and legs short.

They can be told from the swallow and martins {the only other long winged aerial birds} by the quite different outline, the tail being relatively shorter and the wings "scimitar curved".

Life style and breeding of the common swift.

The nest of the swift is placed in some crack or crevis in a building or cliff generally high up, but sometimes it may be located low down. A common place is under the eaves of an inhabited house, and small cottages are sometimes favoured by this high flying bird.

The nest consists of any light materials which have blown about for the bird which rarely, or never, settles on the ground voluntarily , does not alight to pick them up; this hay, straw, wool , feathers or hair may all be found matted together in a pack by the saliva of the bird, an abundant secretion of saliva being a characteristic of swifts. Indeed, one Eastern species of swift builds its nest out of dry saliva alone.

The places chosen by the swift are also selected by the sparrow and starling. The former is sometimes evicted by the swift however, for the starling the swift is no match. The eggs of the swift are usually only two in number and are of a long oval shape. They are pure white without gloss. Only one clutch is laid during the birds relatively short stay with us. The birds arrive in may and have left by the end of August. Local birds arrive by the second week of May and they tend to return to the same nest site year after year. They are also known to sleep in the nest a rare habit among birds.

The eggs are incubated for 19-25 days and the young fledge at around 37-56 days. Studies have revealed that young swifts do press ups using their wings to prepare them for their first flight. When a young swift leaves the nest it usually heads straight for Africa and it may not touch "down " again for two years. The swift lives a perpetually aerial life coming down for only a brief period each year to breed. They live , feed and even sleep on the wing.

They belong to the Order Apodiformes and are placed in the family Apodidae. The genus name within this family is Apus  which derives from the Greek a-signifying without +pous meaning a foot. This alludes to the birds feet that are placed well back on the body rendering them almost useless for walking, hence if a swift has been brought to the ground involuntarily it has great difficulty taking of again. However, the feet are still used to cling on to brickwork or cliff faces when the birds are breeding.

The typical life span of the swift in the wild is estimated to be nine years. They are four years old when they begin to breed. They feed on insects and spiders caught in flight.  

House sparrows are often evicted by swifs during the breeding season

Swallows are unrelated to the swift. They are also seen perched  a characteristic not familiar with the swift.

Reuse of images.

The images on this page may be reused.However, the name of the relevant author must be attributed along with any accompanying license.

Conservation Status

Sadly the swift is the subject of conservation concern due to declines in population numbers.The swift has suffered declines of 29% and were newly Amber listed at the 2009 review, but now showing 13 year changes so severe in Breeding Bird Survey squares that Red listing may be warranted. {Source BTO}. The countryside and our towns and villages would be a far poorer place without these  familiar Apodiformes.

February 2012 in the last ten years there numbers have declined by over 25%. 

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OTHER BIRDS ON THIS SITE.-----

JACKDAW

WOOD PIGEON

PHEASANT

MAGPIE

SONG THRUSH

DUNNOCK

CANADA GOOSE

GREEN FINCH

YELLOW WAGTAIL

COLLARED DOVE

COOTS AND MOOR HENS.

GOLDFINCH & CHAFFINCH

HOUSE SPARROW

BARN OWL

GREY PARTRIDGE.

Also see Birds via Links banner { Birds of Europe} in depth articles with notes from past ornithologists and other eminent writers. 

 

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