©Stefan Johansson


Scientific name: Apus apus
Nearly always on the wing, the arrow-like Swift is a familiar sight on a summer's evening, wheeling around the sky in large groups. It mainly nests in old buildings.

Species information


Length: 16-17cm
Wingspan: 45cm
Weight: 44g
Average lifespan: 9 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

April to August


The Swift is a fast-flying and distinctive bird, with curved wings and 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 the UK in April from its African wintering grounds, it feasts on flying insects.

How to identify

The Swift is black all over, with a small, pale patch on its throat. Looking a bit like a boomerang when in the air, it is very sociable and can often be spotted in large groups wheeling over roofs and calling to each other with high-pitched sounds. It is larger then the Swallow and does not perch on wires.


A common and widespread summer visitor.

Did you know?

Swifts spend almost all of their life on the wing, even sleeping and mating while flying; they only land to nest.

How people can help

Specially designed nestboxes can 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. To buy bird food, feeders and other wildlife products, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm that gives 5% of all its takings to The Wildlife Trusts.