Hallo everybody 🙂
Do you know this bird?
What d’you think it eats? Look at the length of its wings compared to its body size.
What d’you think that can tell you?
I copied this one from a book because they move sooo fast it’s hard to take a picture of one.
Challenge – can you draw one?
These birds are called swifts.
These birds have recently arrived in the UK after a long journey from Africa.
They speed through the sky, sometimes high and sometimes low, but never landing.
You might hear their screams as they call to each other on their synchronised fly-bys.
Check out the RSPB bird identifier under ‘S’: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z
The arrival of swifts is always announced by their screaming cries. For me this is a sign of summer 🙂
Listen to their cries here: https://www.xeno-canto.org/sounds/uploaded/TMUAWSDHDJ/XC511871-G.mp3
Clothes, shape and behaviour
Swifts are only with us for about 3 months, in which time they breed. Then they begin the long journey back to Africa.
These birds are aerodynamic wonders; the only time they land is to nest and feed their young. They even sleep while flying 🙂
They are the fastest bird that flies horizontally.
Have you seen a swift? Check out the videos below:
These films were shot on Thursday 7th May from my garden – swifts are hard to film because they move so quickly!
The male (Mr) and the female (Mrs) look the same – they are brown but look black when silhouetted against the sky.
Swifts have long, slim wings and a forked tail. They scythe through the sky, often in groups and their ‘screaming parties’ are amazing to watch.
Sometimes you’ll see them fluttering in the air as they ‘mow’ the sky for their food of flying insects and spiders.
When it’s wet and windy, swifts can fly above or around the bad weather to avoid it – they’ve been seen by pilots at 10000 feet!
Nesting and chicks
Swifts don’t have the strength to take off from the ground, their feet are shaped to cling on to the sides of buildings, trees or cliffs. They have to nest at a height in order to ‘fall’ into the air and fly.
Swifts don’t build nests, they find suitable holes in high areas, which are often man-made. As they never land, they line their nests with things found on the wing like insects – butterfly wings were found in one!
If you live in a high building, you may have swifts nesting below the roof!
Each year the same swift families will return to the same nest sites, but many suitable sites have now been demolished, repaired or renovated so the nest holes no longer exist.
The numbers of swifts nesting in my area have plummeted. Yearly surveys are now taken to map the whereabouts of swift colonies.
If you live at the top of a tenement or in a high rise flat, you could get a swift nestbox fitted.
Challenge – could you be a swift surveyer? Or could you buy a swift nestbox?
Swift chicks take about 3 weeks to grow – they look like ugly prehistoric craturs when they first hatch!
Each day the parents bring them balls of food with 300- 1000 insects in each!
If the weather’s too wet and cold for the chicks, they can go into a ‘hibernative’-like state until it becomes warmer.
During their final days in the nest hole, the chicks do wing exercises – a bit like press ups – so that they’ll have strength to fly immediately they leave the nest, to avoid capture by predators.
Time for a tale – here is a story about speed; it’s called ‘The Hedgehog’s Race’
Next Chirpy Challenge we’ll look at some other bird migrants, similar to the swift, who fly here to nest and then return south.
Till next week folks 🙂