The common swift
Swifts come and go, just as spring does… But why are they doing so? Like many migratory birds, they hibernate in Africa, south of the equator. Each spring they travel 7000 km to build their nests here!
Cliffs and rocks are their original habitats, but nowadays swifts have become streetwise city-dwellers. The males arrive first and find a nesting spots under roof tiles and gutters or in holes in walls. They prefer their nest in a dark place at at least four meters above the ground. Last year’s nesting spot is often a favourite. New trends in the building of houses impede the swifts’ search for an adequate nesting place.
The female swifts join them a few days later. Once a pair is established, the birds start arranging the nest. They collect hairs, grasses, seed fluff, feathers… which, by their saliva, they weld into a small hard cup. At the end of summer the young are fit enough to make the family trip back to Africa!
How can you identify a swift?
You immediately recognize the screeching call of a swift. With a size of 16 cm, this bird has a 45 cm wingspan. It’s sooty-brown all over, except a small white throat area.
A swift looks like a swallow, but it isn’t one. You can easily discern its sickle form when it’s flying; the wings of a swallow in flight are more angled.
1 common swift
2 barn swallow
3 house martin
Swifts are champions at catching insects: one swift handles about 20,000 insects a day. Plant lice, spiders, hoverflies, flying ants… there is no escape if it hasn’t got a sting! As the evening falls, the swifts that are without a nest gather at 3-5 km height, where they doze off, circling slowly downwards on the up draught.
Have you spotted a common swift already? Click here to plot your observation on the site of NaturDetektive. This map will be open to add your observation from 15 March onwards.
Photos © VILDAPHOTO