COMMON SWIFT (Apus
of the real sounds of summer for me is the wild screaming of flocks of swifts
as they chase each other around the skies. This is another species that has
adapted it's cliff dwelling nature to human habitation, and now can be found
nesting most frequently beneath the roofs of tall, usually old buildings, like
chateaux, church towers or large farm buildings - hence Switzerland is a great place for swifts and
their sound a feature of many villages.
you've go to be quick, they are only here for a few short weeks - the first arrive
from their African winter quarters in mid-April and they begin to leave again
by the end of July.
is one of the fastest fliers of all our birds, feeding at great heights taking
some of the smallest of insects and specialising on those which may have been
caught in thermals and updraughts. They cover vast distances in the sky during the
course of a day - packing up to 300 insects in a small throat pouch and dashing
back to their nests to feed the young. Wherever it goes the Swift is always in
a hurry to get there.
secret of their speed lies in their long scimitar-shaped wings. The innermost
bone is a very short one allowing for a very distinctive twisting movement as
they fly. This structure is similar in humming birds and kingfishers who are
their closest relatives (NOT the swallows and martins of similar behaviour -
very confusing !).
aerial displays are wonderful, a flock of up to 10 or 20 individuals will chase screaming crazily at each other - no one is really
sure what is going here but it seems to happen about half an hour after their
first feed of the morning, but mostly in an evening before going to roost. (these birds are so effective at flying that they will roost and even sleep on the
wing). Their screams, and if you are close enough the noise of their wings, are
is a rather longish file of 4 separate sequences of birds at dawn flying around
and around the farm buildings in which they nest, if you listen carefully, in
addition to the characteristic screams you can hear their fluttering wings and
also the buzzing vibration of the feathers as they pass at high speed.