Swift Awareness Week starts today so in celebration of these birds RSPB Scotland’s Jess Barrett brings you five facts you need to know about them. You can find out more about Swift Awareness Week and find events happening near you as part of it here.
Five facts you need to know about swifts
1. Swifts migrate here from Africa
Swifts spend our winter months away from our cold weather in Africa, undertaking a huge migration every year to return to here to breed. They tend to start arriving in late April and early May and depart by the end of August, and are rarely seen into September.
2. Their screaming call has earnt them some interesting names
For many of us the shrill screaming call of swifts as they dart across our skies is a sure sign of summer, and it’s certainly very distinctive. Past names for swifts including deviling, shriek owl, screecher and skeer devil, all inspired by their ear piercing cries.
3. They spend more time in flight than any other species
Swifts are truly aerial birds – they spent more time in flight than any other bird and are even known to regularly sleep on the wing! Look out for their rapid racing darts about followed by long glides. You’ll often see groups of them soaring over rooftops.
4. They can catch up to 10,000 insects a day
Swifts feed almost exclusively on flying insects, snapping them up as they fly about. In the summer months when they have young to feed they can catch up to 10,000 a day – that’s some hungry babies!
5. Swifts return to the same place to breed
Every year swifts will return to the same place to nest and bring up their young. Their nests are made up of a shallow cup of straw cemented together with their saliva. On the whole swifts favour nesting under the eaves of buildings which is why you tend to find them in villages, towns and cities.
However, breeding numbers of swifts in the UK plummeted by 51 percent between 1995 and 2015. It’s thought that loss of nest sites could partly be responsible. There are several ways you can help them from creating a safe nest place for them to taking part in our swift surveys. Find out more here.