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  Swifts

ADULT BIRD > REHABILITATORS > Swifts

 

Read the REHABILITATORS section of ADULT BIRD first
Extra species specific information for long term husbandry below


HUSBANDRY
RELEASE


HUSBANDRY

  • Housing

Swifts
SWIFTS CANNOT perch but will hang vertically! All 4 toes point forward with sharp nails for clinging.
They stay in their nest space  until they are ready to migrate and catch their own food ‘on the wing’ so they have special requirements:
Space to safely fully stretch their wings and do “press ups” and wing beating to develop their muscles ready for flying.
Do not keep them in a wire cage, the birds can irreparably damage their wings on the mesh. Ideally use a plastic rodent cage.

swift housing swift press ups swift cage
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org

 

Otherwise:
Sturdy box with nest bowl inside
A towel hung over the side of the box for them to cling vertically on if they fall/climb out of the nest bowl
Open topped to allow feeding from above
Light mesh cover over the container
Towel draped over a portion of the container for privacy

swift nest
 
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org

 

Swallows & House Martins
These are PERCHING birds and in order to keep their feathers clean must have perches by the side of their nests. Also, provide a small bowl (lined with kitchen paper) which the birds can use as a nest (see video on youtube)
Unlike Swifts they are fed by their parents for up to a week after fledging and return to their nest at night. Therefore they need to be allowed to practise their flying skills, grow their feathers to correct length and be fed for about a week before releasing into a community. The fledging weight for a swallow or house martin is around 18g.

swallow and martin nest swallow and martin nest and perch swallow and martin cage
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org
© G Westray courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org

 

 

  • Handling

Gently and carefully place bird in the palm of your hand and wrap your fingers around it's body to restrain it's wings against it's body.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the bird(s).

swift handling
 
© Dr Ken Perry courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org


RELEASE

See Rehabilitators RELEASE section first
Seek assistance from expert organisations with knowledge of the whereabouts of particular species at different times of year. See CONTACTS page

Species specific considerations

Swifts, Swallows & House Martins all feed on the wing, insects do not fly in bad weather so releasing must ONLY be done on a fine day with a fair forecast.
Swallows and house martins can be released up until the first week of October, but only in fine weather.
The majority of swifts have migrated by late August so it is recommended to release swifts before then.
If a swift refuses to feed and is fully developed (see details below) then it is probably ready to be released.
Young swifts need a minimum wing length of 16cms. Shoulder to wing tip. (details at Swift-Conservation)
Swifts should ideally be a minimum of 35g and ideally over 40g at release. The fledging weight for Swallows and House martins is 18g.
Ideally release where found (not necessary for a swift) or into a community for Swallows & House Martins.
Swifts should be released in an open area that has some elevation so that the bird can swoop down and then gain height (see diagram and information on swift-conservation.org website).

It is important that Swallows and House martins are released in an area where there are other swallows and house martins.

In the case of a swift, if can't be released where found, take to large open space with short grass, or an open hillside.
Ideally release when other swifts are around and in a light breeze. Ensure that you release the bird with the wind blowing into your face and not from behind because this helps the bird gain lift for flying. It is important that Swallows and House martins are released in an area where there are other swallows and house martins.
Encourage the bird to take off from a raised hand by placing the bird on an open palm and stretching the arm to full length and raising as high as possible.
swift release
 
© Erich Kaiser courtesy of www.swift-conservation.org




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