Common swifts are 16 to 17 cm in length with a wingspan of 42 to 48 cm, depending on the age of the individual. Common swifts are black-brown with the exception of a white to cream colored chin and throat (located directly underneath the beak). In addition, the topside of the flight feathers is paler brown-black in comparison to the rest of the body. swallows. is larger and has very a different wing shape and flight pattern than do swallows. All species in the family Apodidae possess a unique morphological characteristic, a lateral “grasping foot” in which toes one and two are opposed by toes three and four. This allows common swifts to occupy areas such as walls of rock, chimneys, and other vertical surfaces that would be difficult for other types of birds to inhabit. is a sexually monomorphic species, meaning that the males and females look alike. There has been no seasonal or geographical variation reported in the appearance. However, it is possible to distinguish juveniles from adults in the slight difference in richness and uniformity of their coloration, as it is common for juveniles to be blacker in color, as well as to have a pale forehead, white-fringed feathers, and a starker white patch under the beak. This distinction is best observed at close range. ("Common swift (Apus apus)", 1985; "Swifts", 2003; Bruun, et al., 1992; Johnson, 1992)can also be distinguished by its moderately forked tail feathers, its narrow, sickle-shaped wings, as well as its shrill, screaming call. is frequently mistaken for
Common swifts typically breed from late April to early May through mid-September when the young are fledged. One of the most unique characteristics of ("Common Swift (Apus apus)", 2001; "Swifts", 2003; Bannerman, 1955; Johnson, 1992)is its ability to mate while in flight, although they also can mate while on the nest. Mating occurs every few days following the arrival of suitable weather, until a few days after the young have fledged. Following a successful copulation, anywhere from one to four white eggs may be laid, however a clutch size of two is most common. Eggs must then be dutifully incubated for 19 to 20 days while the embryos develop. Both parents participate in the incubation of the clutch. After the young hatch, it can take an additional 27 to 45 days before fledging occurs, usually more than 27 days.
Both parents take turns incubating the clutch following fertilization and prior to hatching. For the duration of the first week following hatching, the clutch is typically brooded all day long. During the second week, the young are brooded for approximately half of the day. For the remainder of the time, until the clutch is fledged, they are rarely brooded during the day, but are almost always covered at night. Both parents participate equally in all aspects of the raising of the young. In the event that unusually bad weather persists or food sources become scarce during the time shortly after the hatching of the young, the young possess the ability to become semi-torpid, a hibernation-like state, thereby reducing the energy demands of their rapidly growing bodies. This adaptation allows young ("Common Swift (Apus apus)", 2001; "Swifts", 2003; Johnson, 1992)to survive with little food for 10 to 15 days. During the time from hatching until fledging, the young are fed almost exclusively in the nest. The young are fed food-balls consisting of insects gathered by the parents during flight and held together with a salivary gland product, creating the food bolus. While the young are smaller, they will share a food bolus among them. However, once young are larger they become able to swallow an entire food bolus on their own.
has been known to consistently forage more than 48-61 km from nesting or roosting sites.
Common swifts are insectivorous, feeding solely on aerial insects and spiders that it gathers in its mouth as it glides through the air. The insects are gathered together inside the throat through the use of a product from the salivary glands, to form a food-ball or bolus. Hemiptera), wasps, bees, and ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and flies (Diptera). ("Common Swift (Apus apus)", 2001; "Swifts", 2003; Johnson, 1992; Svensson and Grant, 1999)is commonly attracted to swarms of insects, as it aides in the ease of collecting sufficient food. It has been estimated that there are an average of 300 insects per bolus. These numbers may vary based upon the abundance of prey. Among some of the most commonly consumed insects are aphids (
Most notable among the anti-predator adaptations of Falco subbuteo), sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus), and buzzards (Buteo buteo), by taking to the air. In addition, the choice of nesting sites on vertical surfaces such as rock walls and chimneys makes it difficult for common swifts to be preyed upon because of the level of difficulty associated with accessing the nest area. The plain coloration of also is advantageous for predator evasion as it makes them difficult to see when they are not in the air. (; "Common Swift (Apus apus)", 2001; "Swifts", 2003)is its aerial mastery, allowing these birds to avoid most of their natural predators, including Eurasian hobbies (
Common swifts have no notable negative impacts upon humans, with the exception of the occasional nuisance of having them nest in the eaves and open spaces in the rooftops of many cities and villages across Europe. (; "Swifts", 2003; Bruun, et al., 1992; Johnson, 1992; Svensson and Grant, 1999)
(; "Swifts", 2003)is neither threatened nor endangered.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Katie Thompson (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.
uses sight to communicate
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Bannerman, D. 1955. Order Apodiformes, Sub-Order Apodes, Family Apodidae, Genus Apus. Pp. 1-12 in The Birds of the British Isles, Vol. IV, 1 Edition. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd Ltd..
Bruun, B., H. Delin, L. Svensson. 1992. Birds of Britain and Europe. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited.
Johnson, L. 1992. Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East. London: A & C Black.
Svensson, L., P. Grant. 1999. Birds of Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Terres, J. 1980. Swift Family. Pp. 868-870 in The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc..