Secret life of the high-flying swift

Most years ‘our’ swifts turn up on cue. For a dozen years or so I’ve made a note of the date of the first sighting, and it’s usually around May 5.

One pair usually nests in the roof space over our bathroom, while two or three others use the neighbouring houses. It’s harder to say when they leave.

This summer a group of 10 or so were around each evening until early August, then they were gone. What happens next?

They just keep flying. For the youngsters, leaving the UK is possibly the start of years on the wing, until the time comes for them to raise young of their own.

For their parents, departure is the start of a 10-month flight. They won’t come to earth again until they come back to look for a nesting site the following May.

In the past the theory that the swift’s life is one of near-constant flight has been the best-guess about where they go, and what they get up to. Now a Swedish study has put flesh on the bones.

Seven swifts were tracked over two years. Three never stopped flying, while the others only landed for a night or two now and again.

Amazing. Ten months soaring free, then two listening to me singing in the shower.

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Keta, Wikimedia