Belongs to: aerial birds

Compare with: swallow

Swift Apus apus

BoCC Amber list


Best time to see: Apr to mid Aug

Key facts

Usually seen as a dark semi-circle of wings hawking for insects high in the sky

A master of flight, even sleeping on the wing, and normally staying aloft for 3 years or more after leaving the nest

Summer visitor to Britain, breeding widely but mainly in the south and east; winters in Africa

Recognition

Sooty brown all over, but often look black against the sky, with long, narrow curving wings and a slightly forked tail

Usually fly higher than martins and swallows, at around 100m or more, feeding on insects and spiders

After arrival in spring, excited groups fly around rooftops and houses screaming, especially at dusk

Lifecycle

Nests are built in the roof space high up in buildings such as churches, where they can drop into the air from the nest hole

2–3 eggs in a brood, with both birds sharing nest duties; young, fed on a diet of insects, are ready to fly at 6 weeks old

Pair for life, returning to the same nest site, but are unlikely to breed until 4 years old, and may live for 20+ years

  • Main photo

Photo © Pawe? Kuz«niar