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Swifts are a beautiful and mysterious bird that many of us don’t realise are flocking above us. Its stunning dusty brown feathers appear almost black in flight as they greet us every Summer. Swifts can be found between April-August in the UK although the Swift is known for its mysterious journies and being found in astonishing locations.

Latin name – Apus Apus

Size – 16-17cm (however their wingspan is 38-40cm!)

Falciot #2 by pau.artigas is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Most Swifts only start breeding in their third year which means that they can stay in the air for 2 or 3 years without landing! The only times, if any, they land is to search for potential nesting holes. Because of their flight pattern and being in the air so often, even when asleep, their legs aren’t built for activities such as hopping or walking. Which is fitting as their latin name, Apus Apus, translate to “no feet”.

Swifts are commonly found nesting in cliffs overlooking the sea, hollow trees or nests that have been made by other species of birds. However, in recent years Swifts have been seen nesting in buildings in large cities which they pass through on their long migration journey.

Unfortunately, recent reports tell that a THIRD of British Swifts have been untracable since 1995 and the cause has yet to be identified. It is difficult for us to fully grasp their whereabouts as their migration journey is so long. Swifts migrate to the UK from India which is a 5,000 km journey! During this time they have been spotted over Ireland and Poland, and reports say they stop in Liberia for up to 10 days during their migration before finishing their long journey back home.


Did you know...?

The diet of a Swift consists mainly of eating insects such as flies, ants and wasps. As Swifts spend a large percentage of their lives in flight they mainly use aerial insects rather than landing to search for food. Swifts can be helpful for gardeners who are experiencing a pest problem as Swifts will eat any unwanted pests!


Article written by Matt from Living with Birds