WEEK-BY-WEEK BIRDS TO SEEK: WEEK 20 SWIFT

EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.

Swift

Swift

Swift

In later summer, Swifts form screaming flocks

In later summer, Swifts form screaming flocks

Two Swifts

Two Swifts

The Swift is the only breeding member of its family and indeed its order, in the UK. It is an exotic looking extremist among our bird fauna. Not only does it spend nearly all its life flying, its legs are also so short and weak that even if it lands it usually can’t take flight again (unassisted). Swift nesting habitats are almost exclusively man made these days, using cavities in roof space and provided boxes..

Despite many inexperienced birdwatchers having difficulty telling Swifts from Swallows and martins, they are (despite their long pointed wings and forked tails) easy to separate from these unrelated birds. Swifts are much larger, with relatively much longer, sickle shaped wings and look all dark (there is a small whitish throat patch which is hard to see in the field).

Swifts generally appear in the UK May and most have left by early September. The call is a distinctive screaming, quite unlike the twittering notes of the swallows, 

All photos from Alamy