British wildlife recordings

Apus apus : Swift - Apodidae

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  • Shelf mark

    W1CDR0001375 BD5

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  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    OS Grid Reference(641500,323500)

  • Recordist

    Shove, Lawrence

  • Species

    Swift, Apus apus

  • Description

    This is the recording, made at a nestbox in Oxfordshire, of calls uttered by a three-week old chick. Of all the world's birds, the swift is without question the master of flight. The air above is its home. It eats, mates and even sleeps on the wing. Indeed, if a swift were to ever land on the ground it would not be able to lift its long, sickle-shaped wings back into the air and would inevitably starve to death. The swift's high pitched, screaming calls are familiar to hot summer days in towns and suburbs. It arrives in Britain during April and leaves by late August, returning to its wintering grounds in Africa. Adult birds pair for life, reuniting each spring at the same nest site. The natural locations for nests are holes amongst cliffs and rocks, but the species has adapted to using cracks and crevices in old buildings. Nests are made of plant debris, which, like everything else, is collected in flight. In order to roost at night, birds gather before dusk and ascend to a higher, warmer air layer, found at 1,000 - 2,000 metres above ground. The plumage of both male and female birds is dark brown; the tail is short and noticeably forked. Swifts are found throughout the UK apart from northwestern Scotland. The breeding population is estimated to be around 85,000 pairs.

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