All About Swifts

Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve is going to spend the whole of April campaigning with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to try and help local populations of swifts. Here are some fascinating facts about swifts from Dr Adrian Cooper:


Did you know…

  • The average weight of a swift is 40 grams – that’s about the same weight as a Cadbury’s Crème egg or a crunchie bar.
  • Swifts are related to humming birds.
  • The eyes of a swift are sunken, and have bristles around them to serve the swift as a type of sun-glasses.
  • Swifts are the fastest bird in the world in level flight. Their maximum speed in level flight, which has been scientifically measured, is 69.3mph.
  • The colouring of swifts varies according to where they prefer to live. So, swifts which live in wetter areas tend to have a darker colouring than swifts which prefer drier habitats.
  • The fleas and parasites which live within the feathers of swifts are different to almost every other type of bird. This suggests that swifts started to evolve on their own a very long time ago. Their fleas and parasites started to evolve with them. Scientists believe that swifts started to go their own way in evolutionary development up to 70 million years ago – during Cretaceous times.
  • British swifts are only with us for about three months of the year. For the rest of the time, they prefer to live in Africa.
  • For their size, they have surprisingly powerful claws.
  • Their toes are arranged into twos. Each pair of toes points sideways, instead of forwards like most other birds.
  • Although their long slender wings are great for fast flying, swifts are much less manoeuvrable when they need to fly more slowly.
  • The average life-span of a swift lasts over 5 years – surprisingly long for such a small bird. The oldest recorded age of a swift has been estimated to be 18 years.
  • British swifts eat a greater variety of insects than any other British bird – up to 312 different species. Swifts can hunt for their food at speeds of up to 25mph.


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2 Responses

  1. Dawn says:

    Hi Everyone,
    Amazing swift facts! Thank you to Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve for posting them here.
    I’m looking forward to learning more about what I can do to help swifts.
    Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve has established itself as a powerful and practical voice for wildlife in our area.
    Let’s tell our family, friends and neighbours what we can all do to help.
    Best wishes,

  2. LW says:

    Thanks for these facts. It is such a joy to see the first swifts fly in our UK skies- I’m looking forward to it.

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