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You will learn to know the swift as a lovable, trusting, almost timid guest who takes a lively interest in all that happens around him. One soulful gaze from his big round eyes, and already this ravishingly beautiful creature has captured your heart and stimulated all your motherly, fatherly and other protective instincts. This helpless little bird is so tame, so trusting - he already loves you... Wrong - misinterpreted! For swifts, unless they have had bad experiences from people or are in shock (e.g. from an accident or attacks by cats), respond naturally without fear. To think they are tame or trusting misses the point. This species of bird is bound to the air and has never known man as an enemy (only with the advent of modern weapons has the bird become a target for bird killers in the Mediterranean region), ), and so lacks the fear that other wild birds have, thus causing the patient to behave as a pet.

Don’t do it – don’t treat him as a pet! Swifts are not pets and should, except for feeding and cleaning up, mainly be left to themselves. If there are a couple of them or even more, the role of humans is reduced to providing necessary care. When a single swift is cared for, a little more contact is permissible, provided that this is acceptable to the bird. But in no case should you play around with swifts, drag them about with you, show off with them to friends and acquaintances, or disturb them in any way. Constant touching and petting is to be avoided, because the fat in human hands is absorbed by the plumage. The only company that a swift really need is that of its own species!

Behaviour of juvenile swifts

Already newly hatched Swifts, when touched or disturbed by noises, beat their wings violently. They grab vigorously with their feet and try to climb up slopes. At the age of 3-4 days they can climb up and cling to a human finger. By 10-12 days they climb and get around, after 2-3 weeks they flutter about and every couple of seconds fall into "deep sleep", but it never lasts long. Nestlings of almost every age like to snooze and comfortably “hang out”, - as if they knew that there will never be this kind of relaxation again for them in the air!

Dozing nestlings © E. Brendel

At about the age of 4 weeks, they begin “flying exercises”. They press themselves up against the wall with tail spread out. They press their bodies with outstretched wings so high that they lift their feet off the ground, at first only briefly, and later often 10 seconds or longer. They beat their wings and flap them madly, almost frantically and obsessively. These exercises are necessary because the young bird must strengthen its flight muscles. Its accommodation should always be large enough for training.

Juvenile swift doing "push-ups" © E. Brendel

Otherwise a young swift shows little inclination to move about, crawls a few steps here and there and back again, so that the future high-performance flyer looks very awkward. Most of the time he spends carefully and persistently looking after his plumage.


Relaxation and social behaviour: cleaning oneself... © E. Brendel

Juvenile swifts behave tolerantly among themselves. If you have to raise a number of swifts, you should, if possible keep them as in nature, two or three together, but experience shows that six or eight can stay together in a (sufficiently large) box. In most cases they form small groups and cuddle up together, nearly adult birds separate themselves, while the very young are often taken into the middle by the older birds. The animals groom each other, rest and sleep close together and appear to chat in their own language. They make a contact sound that sounds like a soft humming or singing, like "pijj-pijj," that changes into a rolling or chirping "zjirr" when they are hungry, and increases to a shrill "zjierrr-zjierrr" if they are angry or anxious. You can recognize specific activities of juvenile swifts in the morning and particularly in the evening at dusk. Nearly fledged birds seem to sense how close the end of the cramped fledging period is, and then train with an almost frantic perseverance.

...and each other © E. Brendel


Swifts react with fear to a hand that comes from above or a touch on the head and back. However they enjoy it if you gently stroke their throat with a fingernail after feeding. Feeding time is also the time for contact and soft gentle words. They lay their heads back comfortably and close their eyes. Some are downright "cuddly", and they turn their heads in every direction, so you can reach and stroke every little spot. You would almost think they are about to start purring like a cat. Others are indifferent or even unfriendly to thuman carers. If the bird dodges your touch, he has no desire to be stroked. Leave him in peace. Swifts are great individualists, none are alike!



If you are inexperienced with swifts, your patient can cause some difficulties for you with his claws. The short, unusually strong feet of swifts are designed for climbing and clinging to steep walls and rocks. Four toes are like the fingers of a hand splayed half to the side, and point forward. Sitting on a branch is almost impossible. Especially during feeding, if he tries to crawl and wriggle backwards, your patient can get hooked and tangled in your clothes, towels, upholstery, etc. and it is not easy to loosen its extremely powerful pincer grip, which can even be painful. Do not use force, but carefully and sensitively loosen each single claw!


"Dry run exercises"

In contrast to young songbirds, that towards the end of rearing need an introduction to flight in a training stage, young swifts spend their entire fledging period in the nest or, now with you, in a container. As long as he is not yet fully fledged, he will spend most of the time preening and dozing lazily in his nest, and wait for the next feed. Occasionally, he makes "dry runs": he pushes himself up and flaps his wings hard. As a nestling, he will not jump out and fly across the room. Only after fledging, when he wants to fly away, he can from one moment to the next become feverishly restless, and attempt to break out: then for swifts with intact, healthy, fully grown plumage it is time to be released. He does not need to learn how to acquire food, he knows instinctively how to catch insects. He also knows how to fly! You must not try to give him flying lessons! He may become anxious and may even hurt himself. For the necessary muscular training, the young swift has taken care of this with his "dry run exercises", and from the moment he flies away, he is completely independent, catches his food and flies perfectly. There is never again any attachment to his parents.


Attention - plumage!

It cannot be stated too often: you must treat a swift’s feathers very carefully because he depends on them for his life. Bent or broken feathers can be a death sentence for a swift! As already explained, it is possible that due to incorrect feeding or other, unknown causes, a young swift may shed one or more feathers. Most of these grow again, but one must be aware that it takes about five to six weeks for a flight feather to reach its full length, and that with this long wait, both the carer and the swift can become discouraged. Be sure you train the bird several times a day as soon as the original fledging period of 6 to 7 weeks is exceeded. Not every swift can last out this ordeal, many give up half way, refusing to take food, become apathetic or ill.

If your swift develops a plumage problem, contact immediately the DGfM in Frankfurt / Main, Germany. There will certainly be a way to get your bird there, where he will be in the company of his own species, and can be looked after under veterinary supervision.

The same is true for any kind of plumage problem that cannot be remedied in reasonable time. A young swift moults its flight feathers only in the second winter of its life. The plumage with which it is released into the wild must last at least for the next two years, almost constantly in the air! Think about it, and in the interests of the bird don’t try any experiments: a juvenile swift with incomplete plumage or other damage (possibly due to inadequate feeding) especially to the flight feathers, can never rise to the challenge of marathon flying, and if the problems cannot be solved, he is a candidate for death.

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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