How to identify

The Swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flyer. Sleeping, eating, bathing and even mating on the wing (while flying), Swifts rarely touch the ground. They are also the fastest birds in level flight, with an impressive top speed of 69mph. Swifts are plain sooty brown, with a white throat, but in flight against the sky they appear black. They have curved wings and a forked tail. Swifts are summer visitors, breeding across the UK, but are most numerous in the south and east. Spending their winters in Africa, Swifts migrate 3,400 miles twice a year, stopping off to refuel in places like Portugal and France along the way. After a long flight back from their summer in Africa, Swifts have one thing on their minds – to mate. Swifts pair for life, returning to the same site each year for a little nest renovation before laying and incubating their eggs. They like to live in houses and churches, squeezing through tiny gaps to nest inside roofs. But as more old buildings are renovated and gaps in soffits closed up, Swift nest sites are fast disappearing. This, in part, resulted in Swifts being added to the red list in the 2021 UK Conservation Status Report. Red is the highest conservation priority, with species on this list needing urgent action. Species on this list, such as Swifts, are globally threatened, with big declines in breeding populations and ranges. That’s why Swifts urgently need our help. By installing a Swift brick in a wall, or putting up a nestbox, you could give a Swift a place to rest and raise a family.



Patrik Åberg / xeno-canto


  1. Resident
  2. Passage
  3. Summer
  4. Winter
* This map is intended as a guide. It shows general distribution rather than detailed, localised populations.
  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

Key facts

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