Fun Common Swift Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Fun Common Swift Facts For Kids

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The common swift (Apus apus) is a medium-sized bird with amazing flying capabilities that lives in the air. They can remain in flight for up to 10 months continuously! With such an aerial lifestyle, they can do almost anything while flying. Common swifts can hunt, sleep and even breed in flight. Rarely does a swift land, unless it is in their nesting sites. Even predators find it hard to catch swifts and those they catch are usually either young or starving. The size of a swift depends on its age and its feathers are usually brown and black with a bit of white on its chin. This swift species eats various insects and arthropods as food.

Common swifts have adapted to their aerial lifestyle, so they have short legs with small feet and long wings. They sleep in bursts of 10 seconds while gliding in the air. As a common species, they have a large population of 95-165 million birds. The breeding season for these birds of flight is in mid-summer from March to June. Swifts have a long lifespan and because of this, they just lay between two to four eggs every breeding season. After spending about three months in the south of Britain, most swifts migrate by August to northern Africa.

If you liked reading about common swifts, don't forget to check out our whiskered treeswift and chimney swift facts too!

Fun Common Swift Facts For Kids

What do they prey on?

Insects and spiders

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

1.05-1.76 oz (30-50 g)

How long are they?

15–16 in (38–40 cm)

How tall are they?

6.3–6.7 in (16–17 cm)

What do they look like?

Black, brown, and white

Skin Type


What were their main threats?

Deforestation And Global Warming

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them?

Temperate Forests


Europe, Asia, And Africa









Common Swift Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a common swift?

The common swift is a type of bird that, as the name suggests, can be commonly found in most areas of the world, especially in the UK and in equatorial and sub-equatorial Africa. The swift lives in the air and can do almost everything while flying. Swifts tend to mate during flight and use the same breeding area every season.

What class of animal does a common swift belong to?

Common swifts belong to the class of Aves (or birds) from the family of Apodidae and they are also known by the scientific name Apus apus.

How many common swifts are there in the world?

Common swifts are found in large numbers in various parts of the world. The current estimate of their population is within a range of 95-165 million.

Where does a common swift live?

Common swifts are very versatile with their habitat choice, although they do migrate during winter. They can be found in temperate zones from West Europe to East Asia. They are also common in the Himalayan region, in East China, and in various parts of sub-equatorial Africa. This swift species can also be found in Israel, Lebanon, sub-Arctic Russia, Norway, and Finland.

What is a common swift's habitat?

The common swift tends to look for temperate forests with plenty of trees as a nesting site and for open plains for hunting food in Europe. After migrating to Africa, their habitat mostly remains tropical. Preferences for nesting sites are long trees or open buildings and they can also use vertical surfaces like chimneys as nesting grounds, thanks to physical adaptations.

Who does a common swift live with?

The common swift usually lives either in their nest site with their chicks and partner or in large groups of other swifts known as a 'box' or a 'drift'. These Apus apus birds are social creatures that are very rarely seen alone.

How long does a common swift live?

The lifespan of a common swift ranges from 16-21 years. They are known to live for a long time and therefore, they only lay two to four eggs per breeding season. One common swift that died in Oxford lived for 18 years and was estimated to have flown 4 million miles in its life, which is equivalent to flying to the moon and back eight times!

How do they reproduce?

Common swifts are monogamous birds, which means that they are faithful to one partner and mate for life. This swift species gains reproductive maturity at the young age of two but their breeding depends on the availability of nesting sites. Apus males usually spend hours scouting for a suitable nest location and then come back with a prospective partner. Nest sites can be high up in the trees or on vertical surfaces in buildings. If an Apus female likes the male swift's nest site, she allows the male to stroke her chin with his bill and they clean each other's feathers with their beaks. The breeding season occurs from March to June and nests are built with material caught in the air whilst the swifts are flying. After mating, the female will lay two to four eggs and incubate them for about 20 days. The young Apus chicks become fledglings within the range of 37-56 days and are then ready to migrate with the adults.

What is their conservation status?

Common swifts have a stable population and are listed as a species of Least Concern. The Apus population lies between a solid range of 95,000,000-164,999,999 birds around the world.

Common Swift Fun Facts

What do common swifts look like?

Common swifts are medium-sized birds with a short forked tail. Their wings are long, narrow, and boomerang-shaped. They have a black-brown head and wings, with white feathers on their chin and chest. These Apus swifts have short legs and small feet that are adapted to their tendency to latch onto branches instead of perching.

Common Swift

How cute are they?

They are very cute! Common swifts have a small beak and small feet with charming bead-like eyes. These birds are quite interesting to observe thanks to their aerial lifestyle. These swifts are found in various parts of the world and tend to look innocent and harmless. Their endurance and agility are truly fascinating!

How do they communicate?

Common swifts use vocal noises like squeaking and chirping to communicate different messages. They are also known to form 'screaming parties', made up of a flock of 15-20 other swifts, that call for the nesting birds in that area in summer evenings. The purpose of these screaming parties is to allow breeding and non-breeding swifts to come together.

How big is a common swift?

Common swifts range from 6.3–6.7 in (16–17 cm) in length with a wing span of 15–16 in (38–40 cm), depending on the age of the bird.

How fast can a common swift fly?

They can fly at a speed of 68.9 mph (111 kph) for as long as 10 months continuously without touching the ground. They can alter the shape of their wings, which is known as the morphing wings, and change to different flight speeds. They can fly as high as 10,000 ft (3.05 km) sometimes!

How much does a common swift weigh?

The average weight of a common swift is 1.05-1.76 oz (30-50 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for male and female common swifts. The whole flock, however, is called various names like a 'box', a 'drift', 'screaming parties,' and a 'swoop'.

What would you call a baby common swift?

A young common swift is known as a 'chick', 'hatchling', or 'fledging' depending on how old it is.

What do they eat?

Common swifts are carnivores that prey on various flying insects like moths, beetles, wasps, flies, spiders and ants. They are usually attracted to swarms of insects and gather them inside their throat, forming a food ball that is mixed with saliva. Common swifts are quick and agile and tend to escape most of their predators with ease Predators of these birds are sparrowhawks, the tawny owl, and the common buzzard.

Are they dangerous?

The common swift (Apus apus) is completely harmless to human beings. On the other hand, their insectivore diet helps to keep pests like mosquitoes under control.

Would they make a good pet?

The common swift is meant to be a free bird as it migrates from areas like southern Europe in summer to equatorial and sub-equatorial Africa in the winter months. It is not a good idea to keep them as pets as they are birds that spend their lives flying in the skies. If a common swift happens to use your nearby building as a nesting site, you can place a bowl of water out for them but make sure not to disturb their nest.

Did you know...

When food is scarce in bad weather, baby common swifts enter a torpid state by dropping their body temperature and metabolic rate. This helps them survive by allowing them to go up to 48 hours without food. Most other chicks would die within hours in such conditions.

How long can a common swift fly?

The Alpine swift bird was the record holder for the longest uninterrupted flight after taking a flight lasting 200 days. However, recent research shows that the common swift has surpassed this feat with a swooping record of 10 months, without once touching the ground. They can spend hours flying without getting tired!

Do swifts ever stop flying?

Common swifts hunt airborne prey (like flying insects) and drink water by gliding across a water body so they don't need to stop flying to eat and drink. They rest in flight too by gliding and sleeping in bursts of 10 seconds. By doing this, they can escape a lot of predators. Swifts can even mate in flight! They only land with a purpose and in safe areas. This could be to build nests, incubate eggs, or feed hatchlings.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the southern cassowary or the grouse.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our cardinal bird coloring pages.

Written By
Sonali Rawat

Currently studying for a Master's in English and communication, Sonali is one of our fact-checkers. She has lots of experience writing on lifestyle, including travel and health. Sonali is interested in Japanese culture, especially fashion and anime, and has written about it in the past. She has even started learning the language! Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival at the university and also coordinated the student magazine. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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