Swifts: The Red Arrows of the Bird World

Swifts: The Red Arrows of the Bird World

These slender, boomerang-winged birds are exquisite flyers and a true anomaly within the bird world. With a top speed of 69mph, swifts have stamina a human could only dream of!

Whilst migrating, they travel approximately 3,400 miles, twice a year. They travel all the way from Africa to the United Kingdom, where they set up roost. These summer visitors sleep, eat, bathe and mate whilst in flight. This can amount to 10 months of continuous flight! The only time swifts touch ground is when they have their chicks.

Swift Flying

Swifts typically have two to three eggs which hatch in a few weeks time. During this period, both monogamous parents will care for their little nestlings, providing them with food and safety.

Incredibly, swifts can collect upwards of 500 insects whilst in flight and store these in a ball in their mouths. This pellet, known as a bolus, is protein-rich and fed to their chicks to provide them with lots of energy before they attempt their first flight. 

Insects flying

Sadly, these beautiful birds were added to the Red List in the 2021 UK Conservation Status Report. Swifts like to nest in tiny gaps found in buildings but due to renovation of older buildings and the closure of gaps, these spaces are becoming harder and harder to find, thus affecting our swift population, here in the UK.

Floor plan

It's not all doom and gloom though. Here at Haith’s we are learning the importance of these charming birds, including how to give them a helping hand. Hannah Bourne-Taylor, who featured in our Naturespace Podcast, is a pioneer in the swift field. Hannah has one mission; to make swift bricks compulsory in new housing. This will allow for easier breeding for red-listed cavity birds who are struggling to locate suitable nesting spots. People are on side, and Hannah’s petition has received over 100,000 signatures, meaning that the topic will be considered for debate within parliament. If successful, this would be a great victory for our swifts. It would mean that more pairs could breed and hopefully, in the long-term, swifts could move off the Red List.

10 Downing Street

After our podcast, Haith’s made a commitment to install seven swift boxes once we moved to Louth, and we have kept our word. We took advice from Swift Aid and placed these boxes irregularly around our seven-metre-high eaves, in a North-Easterly direction. Our goal is to work alongside nature as a nature-based business.

Swift Boxes

Swift Boxes

We are excited for what the future holds for swifts.

If you’d like to give swifts a helping hand, why not consider putting up a swift box outside your home? By making space for nature, together we can make a difference to our natural world.

Written by Julianne Jessett

Staff Photo

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