5. Jun, 2014

‘Skies alive, it’s Apus apus!’

‘Skies alive, it’s Apus apus!’ These sooty brown birds that were around at the time of the Romans, swoop through the streets faster than boy racers!

     Better known as swifts, it is easy to see how they’re one of the fastest birds in the world. You will never see them perched on wires as they only stop for a rain check when nesting or feeding their young.

     For just three months of the year, they pay a flying visit to Britain but the rest of the time they shoot around Africa, taking sips of water as they fly over lakes and rivers, bathing in the falling rain as they go.

     Just the other day, my kind and unassuming husband and I watched in amazement, as these crazy birds flew low and at terrific speed, in and around us, through the street where we were strolling. We had to duck now and then to avoid a potential hit by these gregarious creatures that were hunting airborne spiders and flying insects.

     For a wee while, we watched them and were amazed at their looks and their behaviour. They have long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. Their four toes are arranged in twos and point outwards just like a koala. They scream excitedly as they swoop like mini spaceships through alleyways and streets where they nest in the eves and gables.

      I discovered later that these quintessential birds live to an average age of five and a half year’s though a bird found dying in Oxford, was found to be still in existence sixteen years after being ringed. It had flown over fourteen million miles, the equivalent to flying to the moon and back eight times.

     Preferring a life of flying to resting, these birds are unique in their ability to stay airborne for days at a time. They only land to feed their young or to roost. We were lucky to capture two of their young peeping out of their nest, searching for their next meal.