Amazing Swift Facts

Amazing Swift Facts
Image source: By Paweł Kuźniar (Jojo_1, Jojo) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

1. The European swift, Apus apus, spends virtually its entire life in flight. It feeds, sleeps, and collects nesting material on the wing, and can sometimes even mate without alighting. Normally the only time a swift stops flying is when it is breeding.

2. The swift or 'devil bird' has a forked tail and a high-pitched screaming call, perhaps explaining its nick-name.

3. Swifts are migratory birds. European swifts from Britain winter in Zaire, Tanzania or Zimbabwe. They have long, thin wings for efficient gliding flight over long distances.

4. Whilst the swift is nesting it is attacked by a parasitic lousefly Crataerina pallida. This fly spends its entire life in and around the swifts’ nest. 

5. As a group, swifts are the fastest of all birds in level flight (the peregrine is the fastest of all 
birds, but only in a steep dive called a stoop). 

6. For its size, the swift has an exceptionally long life-span -averaging about 6 years. 

7. They almost never land - except at their nest sites - doing everything on the wing.

8. The earliest known swift-like bird, Priamapus lacki, was named after David Lack, the ornithologist who did the most work on swifts.

9. They drink by gliding over smooth water and taking sips.
Image: By Michael Woodruff from Spokane, Washington, USA - White-throated Swift, CC BY 2.0,

10. It seems they really can mate on the wing - but they will also mate in their nest holes. No other bird is known to mate on the wing (apart from some other swift species)

11. They have a clever adaptation. Food can be scarce in bad weather-the chicks can go cold and torpid and survive for days without food, then regain weight rapidly once supplies resume. Most baby birds can’t do this and would simply die within hours.

12. Only one other kind of bird can lose temperature control and become torpid each night-the hummingbird. This saves energy.

13. A young Swift will spend its first two to three years in flight, and will not land until it nests.

14. If stormy weather is forecast, they will fly away and return many hours and sometimes days later. Chicks at the nest become torpid and will survive for several days without being fed.

15. They travel 14,000 miles every year.

16. At night, they fly to about 10,000 feet. They can navigate through different wind speeds while sleeping.

17. They belong to ornithological family Apodidae meaning footless

18. A pair mates for life.

19. At about a month old, the babies do ‘press ups’ in the nest, lifting themselves up by pushing down on their wings, probably to strengthen the wings. By the time they’re ready to go, they can hold their bodies clear of the ground like this for several seconds.

20. Once they launch themselves off on their very first ever flight, that’s it, they don’t return to the nest and are no longer cared for by the parents.


Popular Posts