Bird that migrates under threat

Swift nest banging

Swift nest banging

Swifts are a migratory species and come to visit us in the UK once a year. They spend the winter in Africa and migrate to Britain in April and May. They are constantly “on the move” and are rarely seen perching – making life difficult for the human swift spotter.

One particularly mysterious aspect of their behaviour is the high-altitude ascents they perform at dusk and dawn. Common swifts form “screaming parties” during the breeding season. Flocks of swifts call to each other as they swarm around the nesting area at dusk and dawn. During these screaming parties, they ascend to altitudes of around 8200 feet above the ground. The reasons for this behaviour are unclear. Swifts are sociable and it may be that they are talking to each other. Another theory postulates that it may play a role in orienteering, while another posits an association with weather forecasting!  

Swifts are the fastest of all birds in level flight. They have been proven to reach 69mph. Very few birds of prey can catch a swift.

Sadly, they are under threat. Under threat from the modern world. In pre-industrial times swifts nested in caves or high in the trees. Not now. They have adapted by diverting to living in holes in walls and under the eaves of houses – older ones – during the breeding season. They tend to favour ancient buildings like churches, not for religious reasons – presumably a mosque would do just as well – but because church construction techniques left decent sized spaces under the eaves.  Our obsession with draughts means that we block up and insulate every tiny gap. Swifts can be persuaded to nest and breed in towers or in specially-designed swift boxes hanging on walls.

By entering BirdRun you can help to create more “homes for swifts” in locations where they like to nest but are denied by our desire to eliminate the nooks and crannies they need to breed.