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Brief Swift Facts

Common Swift (Latin: Apus apus, Gaelic: Ghobhlain mhora)

Flying and feeding

Swifts arrive in the UK in May and stay for about 3 months to breed, migrating back thousands of miles to Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of August.

Swifts are supreme fliers, and can ascend up to 2000 metres. They spend almost all their life on the wing, feeding, mating and even sleeping in the air and only land to breed during the summer months.

Swifts eat only insects, catching as many as 40,000 every day on the air currents. They are often seen feeding above bodies of fresh water due to the high numbers of insects associated with this habitat.



Swifts are monogamous and show site fidelity so the same pairs of Swifts return to the same nesting location year after year.

The female lays 2-3 eggs each breeding season that hatch after about 3 weeks. Both parents then feed the fledglings for 5 to 8 weeks to prepare them for their long journey to their wintering grounds in Africa.


The loss of nest sites through the refurbishment of old buildings and new building design is believed to be one of the main causes of Swift population decline.

Other threats that may be affecting the Swifts’ livelihood include pollution, climate change and reduced numbers of insects, the Swift’s main food source.

Highland Environment Forum

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