© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Apus apus

  • Name also: Common Swift, European Swift
  • Family: Swifts – Apodidae
  • Appearance: Almost entirely dark brown, with a pale throat patch. Flight pattern different from that of swallows and martins, with short series of rapid wingbeats alternating with long periods of soaring flight.
  • Size: Length 17–18.5 cm, wingspan 40–44 cm, weight 42–54 g.
  • Nest: In a hole on a rooftop, a nest box or a ventilation inlet. Modest nest made of feathers, straw and other material that the parents can collect in the air while flying, all glued together with saliva to form a wide flattish nest bowl
  • Breeding: 1–3 eggs laid in June, incubated by both parents for 18–26 days. Fledglings remain in nest for between 25 and 49 days depending on the availability of food.
  • Distribution: A familiar sight in high summer over settlements and sparse woodland throughout Finland (even in extensive wilderness areas in small numbers). Finnish breeding population estimated at 14,000–26,000 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Leaves Finland August–September, returning May–June. Winters in tropical Africa.
  • Diet: Airborne insects and arachnids. Adults bring compressed balls of food to their fledglings. These balls weigh about a gram, and may contain as many as 1,500 tiny flies or 150–200 larger insects.
  • Calls: Near nest a harsh screaming call “sviir srrii” performed during competitive flight.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Swifts are larger than swallows and martins, and their wings are more sickle-shaped. Their plumage is almost totally dark brown (often black from a distance) except for a whitish throat patch. Their ankles are feathered and their toes are dark brown. They have black beaks and dark brown irises.

Their flight pattern differs visibly from that of swallows and martins, with short series of rapid wingbeats alternating with long periods of soaring flight. Their legs are so short (with all their toes facing forward to enable them to hang on steep surfaces) that they cannot walk on the ground, so they feed and often even sleep while in flight.

Swifts are highly adapted to feeding on flying insects. During shortages of flying insects caused by rain-bearing low pressure fronts, they may fly long distances in search of food, even ranging hundreds of kilometres to find suitable weather conditions. Fledglings can also cope with food shortages by surviving without food for up to a week, sometimes going into a kind of hibernation.

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