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FAQ

 

What makes the Common Swift so unique?

Yes. It is one of the most unusual and interesting of all birds because of its behavior, its anatomy and even its physiology. Under cold weather and scarce food conditions it can enter a kind of hibernation or torpor. In this way it uses less energy. Adult swifts are able to survive two days in this state, and nestlings even five days.

 

Is the Common Swift the fastest bird?

No. The Common Swift is one of the fastest-flying birds found in Europe. When members of a colony get together and fly screaming at full speed over their territory, they can reach 220 km/h in dives. Only the Alpine Swift (Apus melba), which can dive at 250 km/h, and the Hobby (Falco subbuteo), are faster than the Common Swift. The Hobby can dive at 240 km/h and is the Common Swiftĺs only natural enemy on the wing, because no other predatory bird can fly fast enough and maneuver  well enough to catch a free-flying Swift.

 

Can the Common Swift really sleep in flight?

Yes. The Common Swift can fly without landing for very long periods. This is possible, because it can do many things while flying. It can eat, drink, sleep, and even mate while flying. Only for the breeding process Common Swifts must land. Since most birds start breeding only in their 3rd or 4th year, they stay permanently in the air for 2 or 3 years, except for checking possible nesting-holes, when they cling onto a wall for a few seconds to look inside.

 

Is the Common Swift found all over the world?

No. It is found all over Europe, northern Asia and Africa, but not in Southern Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Other kinds of Swift are found in these areas, however.

 

Is the Common Swift a kind of swallow or martin?

No. Common Swifts are not swallows or martins. They belong to the ornithological order of the Apodidae (the ôFootlessö) and their nearest relatives are hummingbirds. Furthermore, Swifts are not songbirds and swallows and martins are.

 

Do Common Swifts breed only in tall houses and build their nests at least 10 m above the ground?

No. The Common Swift also breeds in smaller houses and can use holes less than 8 m above the ground. They usually nest where other swifts are nesting, mostly under the gutter or below the roof. If the houses are tall, they nest high above the ground; if the houses are smaller, they also take lower nests and 3-4 m above the ground is not uncommon.

 

Do Swifts need a free space in front of their nests?

Yes. Because their feet are not built for walking or hopping from branch to branch, Swifts have to fly straight into their nests. When the entrance hole is big enough, they fly straight through the hole without touching the sides.

 

Can we help Common Swift chicks that fall out of the nest?

Yes. We can help chicks that fall out of the nest, but they urgently need expert care. They need a special diet so that their feathers can grow properly: the Common Swift feeds exclusively on airborne insects and when it gets the wrong food its feathers will grow deformed or will fall out after a few weeks.

 

Can the Common Swift take off from flat ground?

Yes. Healthy Common Swifts can take off from the ground easily, sometimes by pushing off with their long wings, but the ground must be smooth, so that the wings can flap freely. A Swift is not able to take off in long grass, for example.

 

Is the Common Swift endangered?

No. Compared to some birds it is very common and because it uses houses for nesting, it does not always suffer like many other animals from the destruction of countryside and wilderness. However, renovating and rebuilding houses can destroy many nesting-holes so that Swifts find it hard to breed and their numbers can fall dramatically. It is important to remember that even the commonest wild animals can be threatened by human carelessness or indifference.

 


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