Swift Apus apus   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Apodiformes Family: Apodidae
BTO Codes: SI, SWIFT EURING No: 7950
Number in Britain: 87 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
Subspecies: apus recorded in Britain (of 2 subsp. in the world)
Length: 16 cm Wingspan: 45 cm Weight: M/F: 44 g    
Scientific name from: L.: apus=the swift (from Gr.: a-=without + pous=foot)
World Distribution: BREEDS: Eurasia, nw Africa, WINTERS: tropical & s Africa
Habitat: Open country & towns
Diet: Wide variety of flying insects and spiders caught in flight
TitBit: By sleeping with half of its brain at a time, the Swift lives a perpetually aerial life, coming down only for a short period each year to breed.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: Scotland   Wales   England   English Regions
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore    BBS Maps
British Population Size:
    Summer: 87 thousand Pairs in 2009
    First Record: 1544
    Latest Survey: Newson, S.E. et al. (2008) Journal of Applied Ecology 45:1330-1338
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Recent Breeding Population Decline (1981-2007),
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 GREEN     1996-2001 GREEN  
   Races of Concern: apus AMBER (Recent Decline)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    Most frequent in: Towns
    And found in: Villages
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat:
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
Average Day of First Arrival: 23 Apr
European Population Size:
    Summer: 4.4 to 12 million pairs   (Trend in Numbers)
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: Bern(III)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Results from Swift web portal

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 25 x 16 mm Egg Weight: 3.5 g (of which 6 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 110
Clutch Size: 2 - 3 eggs
Incubation: 19- 25 days   by the: -
Fledging: 37 - 56days as: Altricial, naked
First Clutches Laid: Unavailable
Number of Broods: 1
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.808       
Juvenile Survival: No data
Age at First Breeding: 4 years Typical Lifespan: 9 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 17 years 11 months 5 days (set in 1999)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: SO
Wing Length Adult: 175.1 ± 3.7 Range 169 - 181 mm, N =2130
Juvenile: 169.3 ± 6.6 157 - 177 mm, N =99
Male: 176.2 ± 3.3 170 - 181 mm, N =57
Female: 174.0 ± 4.1 168 - 181 mm, N =143
Weight Adult: 39.49 ± 3.36 Range 34.00 - 45.20 g , N =1160
Juvenile: 32.12 ± 5.03 27.40 - 44.00 g , N =97
Male: 40.78 ± 4.06 34.10 - 45.50 g , N =24
Female: 41.93 ± 3.68 37.30 - 47.00 g , N =93
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Common Swift
Gaelic: Gobhlan-mòr Welsh: Gwennol Ddu
Danish: Mursejler Dutch: Gierzwaluw
Finnish: Tervakirskuja French: Martinet noir
German: Meuersegler Hungarian: Sarlósfecske
Icelandic: Múrsvölungur Irish: Gabhlán Gaoithe
Italian: Rondone Norwegian: Tårnseiler
Polish: Jerzyk zwyczajny Portuguese: Andorinhão-preto
Spanish: Vencejo común Swedish: Tornseglare
Local Names: Devil Bird, Martlett
Collective Noun:Scream

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Lack, D. 1973 Swifts in a tower Chapman & Hall, London [598.731 LAC]
   Lack, A. & Overall, R 2002 The museum swifts Oxford University Museum, Oxford [598.731 LAC]
   Brohall, D. 1980 Devil birds: the life of the swift Hutchinson, London
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides