Apus apus


The swift is a fast-flying, streamlined bird with long, curved wings and a short, forked tail. Originally nesting on cliffs, it now mainly nests in buildings such as churches, chimneys and even tower blocks; it is particularly common in older parts of towns and cities. Arriving in Britain in April from their wintering grounds in Africa, swifts feast on flying insects.

How to identify

Larger than swallows and martins, swifts are black all over with a small pale patch on the throat. Looking a bit like a boomerang when in the air, swifts are very sociable and can often be spotted in large groups wheeling over roofs and calling to each other with high-pitched sounds. They do not perch on wires like swallows.

Where to find it

A common and widespread summer visitor.


When to find it

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August

How can people help

Although common, breeding populations of swifts have been declining over recent decades. With modern building techniques, the swift's preferred nesting cavities in buildings, such as those under eaves, are becoming few and far between. Specially developed nestboxes may help this species to survive in our towns and villages. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Apus apus
Swallows, martins, swifts and nightjars
Length: 16-17cm Wingspan: 45cm Weight: 44g Average Lifespan: 9 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.