Apodidae – Swifts & allies

Spend 80% of their life flying in the air; unrelated to Swallows

Swifts are birds that are supremely adapted for life in the air. Their name is derived from the Greek “a-pous,” meaning “without foot,” which refers to their tiny, weak legs used primarily for clinging to vertical surfaces and seldom used for walking.

Swifts are among the most aerial of birds; some species, like the Common Swift, spend most of their lives in the air, only landing to breed. They are capable of eating, drinking, and even sleeping while flying. Their long and narrow wings’ design allows for efficient and speedy flight, and swifts can quickly cover vast distances in their search for food.

The diet of swifts consists almost exclusively of flying insects, which they capture with their wide, gaping mouths during flight. Drinking is also done on the wing, with swifts skimming the surface of bodies of water to scoop up water with their beaks.

When it comes to nesting, swifts are ingenious builders, utilizing saliva to construct their nests. The edible-nest swiftlet is particularly famous for its saliva-based nests, which are harvested by humans for the delicacy known as bird’s nest soup. This practice has led to conservation concerns, as overharvesting can damage swiftlet populations.

Both male and female swifts are similar in appearance and share parental duties, such as incubating eggs and feeding the young. The cooperative breeding behavior of swifts ensures that both parents invest in the success of their offspring.

To cope with colder weather, swifts have the ability to enter a state of torpor, lowering their metabolic rate to conserve energy. Their plumage provides insulation, and by fluffing up their feathers, they can trap more air close to their bodies for warmth. Huddling together is another strategy to maintain body heat during chilly periods.