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The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flier. It even sleeps on the wing - By sleeping with half of its brain at a time, (the same technique as a Dolphin!) the Swift lives on the wing, coming down only for a short period each year to breed.

It is plain sooty brown, and has a characteristic shape, with a short forked tail and very long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. They are superficially similar to swallows but are actually not closely related. They feed on a wide variety of flying insects and spiders caught in flight.

The Swift is a summer visitor, arriving in late April, breeding across the UK, but most numerously in the south and east. It winters in Africa. See our Swift nesting box.

Quick Facts

37-56 days

Clutch Size
2-3 eggs

Egg Weight
3.5 g

Egg Size
25x16 mm

First Record

Open country & towns

44 g

45 cm

16 cm

Status in UK
Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor

Conservation Status UK

Number in Britain

19-25 days

Number of broods

Age at First Breeding
4 years

Typical Lifespan
9 years

Maximum Recorded Age
17 years, 11 months

  • The only time Swifts are thought to land is to rear there young and such is their aerial lifestyle they even roost and mate on the wing.
  • Within days of leaving the nest the adult Swifts migrate south.
  • They have adapted to their aerial lifestyle, with almost no legs and tiny feet.
  • It is very difficult to tell the sexes apart, even when holding the bird.
  • In times gone by Swifts nested in holes high up in trees. Today most swifts nest under the eaves of buildings.
  • A young swift was reported to have covered 1,300km in three days.
  • Like the Cuckoo, the Swift spends only three months of the year in Britain. They arrive early May and depart early August.

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