It must be spring

…because the swifts are back! I just heard a screaming party go rifling past my veranda. And when I checked my blog, I found that I’d posted about their arrival last year on 21 March. Consistency, thy name is Apus apus.

Swift (Apus apus)

I had to give up a lot of favorite birds when I left the New World (hummingbirds come instantly to mind), but European swifts make up for a lot of it. Their faster-than-a-speeding-bullet flight, and their evening screaming parties, are some of the coolest things ever. The fact that they demolish mosquitos and other annoying insects is just icing on the cake.

Swift (Apus apus)

See that gigantic mouth? All the better to scoop up bugs in flight (not to mention grabbing a drink of water on the wing). And their wings are incredibly long relative to their body size, giving them not just bullet-like velocity but also the ability to turn on a dime. Fleeing bugs don’t have a chance. This video of a pair of swifts in their nest box will give you a good idea of just how long those wings are: so long that the birds have a hard time changing position inside their box. Your best view in the video starts around 1:20. And at 1:45, if you’ve got the sound up, you can faintly hear a screaming party going by outside the box. The swift in the box screams in response, then jumps out to join them.

I love European swifts. My day just got a whole lot brighter.

(Both photos by Billy Lindblom.)


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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6 Responses to It must be spring

  1. Ana says:

    Doesn’t even feel like Spring till one of those falls down our chimney and then digs one of those meant-to-cling-to-rock claws into my hand while I’m trying to carry it to the nearest window because the silly things can’t lift off the ground with their stubby little legs, they have to drop into flight.

    They are gorgeous to watch at the end of the day, but for some strange reason, I like swallows better.

    • oregon expat says:

      I am totally jealous that you occasionally get to carry one to your window (even with the meant-to-cling-to-rock claws).

      As for swallows — I’m an equal opportunity bird geek. I love them, too. And house martins.

  2. Scout says:

    I love how they can catch insects and water while flying faster than a speeding bullet and not choke on them! If I dive into a lake with my mouth open and fit of coughing ensues.

  3. Ana_ñ says:

    Their English name suits them perfectly. We have a non-evocative name (‘vencejo’), not associated with their velocity.
    My spring detector came fully alive too, although it is malfunctioning because the weather is being crazy here. However, I must say that yours is far lovelier than mine: sneezing and runny nose 🙂

  4. M. says:

    No fair, our swifts will not be back for at least another month.

  5. CathyW says:

    Talk about being slow on the uptake, I’ve only just realised what the comment means at the end of each post! If the swifts have hit Portugal that means it won’t be too long ’til my swallows arrive.Their journey is a long one , from Natal in South Africa to my garage in Scotland

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