The Swift is sooty brown all over, but against the sky it appears black. It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. You could mistake it for a Swallow, but the easiest way to tell them apart is to remember that Swifts don’t bend their wings while flying. It’s also impossible to see them land – their nesting places are hidden away in roofs and they fly in and out very quickly. Swifts have an unusually long lifespan for a bird – some can live to the age of 21!
Unlike Swallows, Swifts never perch. You might see screaming parties of them careering madly at high speed around rooftops and houses, mainly in towns and cities, especially towards dusk. Swifts are superb fliers, and spend almost the whole of their lives on the wing. They land only to breed – they even sleep on the wing!
They are easiest to observe in built-up areas, where they build their nests in the cracks and holes in buildings, and sometimes in specially provided nest boxes. Remember that Swifts are very common in towns and cities, but can be rather hard to spot in the countryside.
How do I tell a Swift from a Swallow?
Swifts are noticeably larger than Swallows, and their wings are longer, significantly narrower, and scythe-shaped. Unlike Swallows, Swifts do not bend their wings while flying. Also, a Swift's tail is wider and shorter than a Swallow's. You should remember that generally you will see Swallows in the countryside and Swifts in the city.
What do they eat?
Swifts eat nothing but flying insects and small spiders floating in the air.
Swifts place their nests in hollow spaces in buildings and ruins, in deep holes between bricks, air-holes, under tiles and in other well hidden cavities, between rocks, in hollows and in special nest boxes.
The nest is bowl-shaped and formed of light blades of grass, leaves, feathers, plant fluff, petals, moss, seeds and rubbish (e.g. pieces of paper etc), glued together with saliva.
Swifts spend the winter in Africa, south of the Sahara, and some fly as far as South Africa.
The population of Swifts in Europe
The Swift population in Europe is very large and relatively stable.