swifts / Neil Fletcher

Tell us if you have seen a swift

Swifts are with us for only three months of the year, from May to the beginning of August. They spend the rest of the year on migration to and from southern Africa, and amazingly, they stay on the wing for all of that time, even sleeping in flight, not landing on their feet even once! In fact, they only land to nest, so when the young swift fledglings leave they don’t land for another two or three years until they are ready to breed themselves! As it’s so difficult to preen their feathers in flight, swifts are often carrying large parasitic ticks, but it doesn’t seem to bother them


Swifts are in big trouble. Numbers in the UK have fallen by half in the last thirty years. This is partly because the use of pesticides in farming has decimated the population of insects on which they feed, but is also due to a lack of suitable nesting sites. Swifts nest high up in buildings, usually under the roof tiles or in small gaps under the eaves, but modern ‘tidy’ building practices mean that all these small gaps (which actually help ventilate the roof space) are getting sealed up, so the swifts can’t get in. The birds themselves cause no damage and leave no mess, so this is a disaster. Special nest boxes for swifts can help, but many more need to be put up to make a real difference.