A flying swift


Apus apus

Key Facts

  • Length: 16-17cm
  • Wingspan: 45cm
  • Weight: 44g
  • Average lifespan: 9 years
  • Conservation status: Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2019).
  • When to see: April to August

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

A common and widespread summer visitor.

Did you know?

Swifts spend almost their entire life on the wing, even sleeping and mating whilst flying, only landing to nest.

Swift Action: The Story of S6 Swifts film by Ian Cracknell

Swifts talk by Edward Mayer

Click below to watch our fantastic Wild Night In online talk by Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation:

How you can 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.

Specially designed nestboxes help this species to survive in our towns and villages, where renovation work often blocks the small holes they use to access their nest sites. To discover more about swifts and the range of boxes available, visit www.swift-conservation.org or actionforswifts.blogspot.com

Let us know if you see swifts at home, or when out and about – your records are really important to help us assess the wellbeing of the swift population – at wildsheffield.com/sightings.

To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit the wildlife gardening section of our website, where there are 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.

Sign the petition for swift bricks in all new buildings in Sheffield

Local group S11 Swifts have produced a petition calling upon Sheffield City Council to make swift bricks mandatory in all new buildings and extensions. Find out more and sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/swiftbricks4swiftchicks

Fallen or injured swifts

Should you encounter a swift that has been injured, contact Pet Samaritans on 01246 455777 (Chesterfield) for further advice.

You can also find more information about fallen or injured swifts in Sheffield from Sheffield Swift Rescue and The Special Branch.

Join your local swift group

There are a number of swift groups in Sheffield who are installing nestboxes, recording local activity and sightings to help the species. Why not get in touch with your local group and ask for more information?

Dore Village Society Swift Group

Dore Village Society are in the process of setting up a new swift group. If you’re interested in more information or taking part the society can be contacted by email:

Heeley and Meersbrook Swift Group

Heeley and Meersbrook Swift Group have a small, low volume email list. To be added to their list or to find out more about the group, contact Sarah Blandy:

S6 Swifts

S6 Swifts are taking action to help swifts in the Hillsborough, Walkley and S6 postcode area. To find out more and join their email list for more info, visit the S6 Swifts website: https://s6swiftssheffield.org

S7 Swift Boxes initiative

Following the success of S7 Swifts, led and established by Lynne Chapman in 2021, Lynne has passed on the organisation of the initiative to Nether Edge and Sharrow Sustainable Transformation. NESST want to support the conservation of swifts in the Nether Edge and Sharrow area through the erection of swift boxes on people’s houses and other properties. The initiative will be fitting boxes for local residents in April 2022. If you live in the S7 postcode area and are interested in having a swift box fitted, please email and we will be in contact with more details.

S11 Swifts – Ecclesall Swift Supporters

S13 Swift Group

S13 Swift Group is a newly emerging group aiming to cover Handsworth, Woodhouse and the surrounding areas of S13. The group is still forming, so if you live in the area and would like to get involved, please do get in touch via email.

S17 & Totley Swifts

Totley Swift Group are not only active in the village of Totley but are currently covering Dore, Bradway, Totley Bents (the S17 area), plus they are doing site visits and giving advice to residents in other areas nearby.

Walkley and Crookes Swifts

This group is for anyone who wants to share appreciation, sightings and information about our local swifts. Report a swift in trouble, encourage people to put up nest boxes and welcome swifts into their roof spaces.

Start a swift group in your area!

If you are interested in starting a new swift group for your area, please contact us at takeaction@wildsheffield.com.

Get your local swift group listed here

If you are a member of a swift group in Sheffield or Rotherham not shown here, please get in touch with us at takeaction@wildsheffield.com and we will add your group’s details to our list. 

Watch and Listen

Swifts have a distinctive high-pitched call, which can be described as a ‘screech’. A large group of calling swifts can sometimes be referred to as a ‘screaming party’. It is a familiar and recognisable noise, which many associate with nature’s ‘Sound of the Summer’. Listen below…

by Tom Hibbert 

Swift Awareness Week

Swift Awareness Week takes place 2 – 10 July 2022 and is organised by Action For Swifts. You can find out more on Action for Swifts’ blog here, or you can search for events on social media using the hashtag #SwiftAwarenessWeek.

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