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Found birds

You found a Common Swift. Is human help necessary? May you touch the bird? Do you have to put it in safety?

Yes! Absolutely! You will never find a swift sitting on the ground for no reason. Never throw the bird up into the air! A thorough check of the bird – if possible by a veterinarian – is necessary to find out the reason why the bird came down and to help it effectively.


fledgling with ruffled feathers, emaciated and almost starved © C. Haupt

If you are not sure, if you found a Common Swift, you can check for details in “Common Swift "Identification"




Reasons why a grown up Common Swift may end up in human hands


While looking for nest sites

Some attics are potential death traps. While looking for nest sites, Common Swifts often slip into the attic using small gabs underneath roof shingles. Not able to find the way out, they might painfully die of hunger and thirst. The birds can also slip into a house through half-open windows. Once inside, they often don`t find enough space to lift up into the air again. Usually the birds are not injured and - if discovered in time - can be set free immediately. In case a Common Swift is already emaciated, first aid and feeding by human hand are indispensable.


Because of a fight

While looking for one of the few nest sites, Common Swifts may attack each other fiercely. Not paying attention to anything else, the opponents may plunge down, continuing their fight on the ground. To prevent them from falling victim to cats, traffic or incautious people, try to pick them up, separate them and set them free unless veterinarian aid is necessary.


Because of exhaustion

Only a few days of cold wheather, wind and rain can cause serious problems. The birds are not able to find enough insects. Nearly starved to death and totally exhausted you may even find several of them at once, either lying on the ground or clinging on to a wall. They need warmth, insect food and medical help by a veterinarian before they can be set free during a period of favorable weather conditions.



Because of an accident

Accidents are not unusual, especially while looking for a nest site. Common Swifts often collide with circuit lines, windows, eaves or other man-made obstacles. Additionally accidents happen more often during periods of unfavorable wheather conditions. Car drivers should pay attention: Common Swifts and swallows often hunt for insects dangerously close above the roads, especially near rivers. For that reason hundreds of Common Swifts fall victim to traffic accidents or suffer injuries such as concussions of the brain, state of shock or bone fractures. Surviving birds need the help of an experienced vet as soon as possible.


A grown-up Common Swift in human hands could be a breeding bird and already have brood, which is in danger as long as it is left alone. As a result grown-up Common Swifts should only be kept under human protection as shortly as necessary. That means until all injuries have been taken care of and until the bird is well fed.

Reasons why a young Common Swift may need human help

Everytime you find a bird not yet able to fly outside his nest!
In contrast to other birds: many young singing birds stay in contact with their parents permanently after having left their nest. Animal lovers often misinterpret their calls as signals for help. Assuming they have been abandoned by their parents, they pick up the birds. This may have fatal consequences.
Young Common Swifts lying on the ground, though, are lost without human help. These birds never feed their young outside their nest. In this case, your intervention is justified and necessary. Feathered young ones not yet able to fly can be found from mid June onwards. Fully fledged Common Swifts can be found from the beginning of July onwards.


Helpless and lost due to demolition work, 2 weeks-old Common Swift siblings © I. Polaschek


A young Common Swift may need help for the following reasons:


Extreme heat

During the summer months temperatures can get extremely high, especially right underneath the roof. Trying to get some fresh air near the entrance of the nest, the young are in danger of falling out. These birds – though often well fed – might still be in a critical state due to injuries or due to the fact that they have been exposed to heat and sunshine while lying on the ground.


Cold snaps

During periods of cold wheather and shortage of insects, young house martins often loose weight dramatically. Urging their parents for food, they often get uncautious and fall out of the nest. In this case, early help by a veterinarian is necessary. Those foundlings are often emaciated and can only be saved by infusions.


In case the parent birds do not return to the nest site or change partners

In case the parent birds get hurt and are unable to return to the nest site, half-starved chicks might decide to leave their nest way too early. If only one of the parent birds does not return, the remaining Common Swift might be unable to raise all the young. It can only succeed if the nestlings are already well developed. But it is more likely that it commits itself to another partner, which sometimes kills the young of its predecessor by throwing them out of the nest.



The repair of a roof is usually done during the summer months. Even if the construction workers have knowledge of the breeding colony underneath the roof, they often continue with their work regardless of the consequences. By covering up all gaps between the shingles, they not only cause the death of the helpless nestlings but very often destroy the breeding colony for all times. Some of the young Common Swifts can still be saved by compassionate neighbours. Usually these few lucky ones are well fed and can be of any age.



Scaffolds used during the refurbishment of a house are potential death traps. They may become unsurmountable obstacles for the parent birds, causing a painful death of the young left alone in their nest. Neighbours who keep an eye on the construction work sometimes notice desperate parent birds trying to get into their nest or find exhausted young birds on or underneath the scaffold.  They should inform the authorites as soon as possible. In Germany, building contractors can be forced by law to remove those parts of the scaffold endangering the breeding colony. Only a few days without food can cause the death of the nestlings.


A “crash”

The first attempts to fly are very critical for the young Common Swifts. Many factors (such as trees in front of the nest sites or gusts of wind) can cause a crash even of a most healthy young bird. You can help immediately by giving it the opportunity to try a second start from your uplifted hand in open space.
Attention: Make sure first that the bird is not injured! A collision with a circuit line, car or window might have caused the crash and it is very unlikely that the Common Swift did not hurt itself.


Just putting the young Common Swift back into the nest is usually not very helpful. Calling the fire-brigade or risking your own health using a ladder to get to the nest may have the result that the young bird falls out a second time, maybe hurting itself even more.
Common Swifts lying on the ground might have been suffering from hunger and thirst for several hours or days and could be injured. In this case complications are not unusual and it is necessary to get the help from a veterinarian who is specialized in the treatment of birds.


Buchenstraße 9
D-65933 Frankfurt

Tel.:+49(69)35 35 15 04
We accept only swifts! Questions regarding other bird species will not be answered!
Information regarding other bird species: http://www.wildvogelhilfe.org/
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