Nature with Nik Mitchell: A swoop of Swift

Amazing swifts Photo by Dan Richards

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell, from Minster, runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page on facebook:

This month means the arrival of one of the most exciting birds to grace our skies, the swift. The swift left us here in Thanet last September and have been flying non-stop since. They spend winter in the skies over Africa and migrate 3400 miles here and back every year.

Swift sleep, eat, drink, bathe and mate on the wing and only land to raise young. If you have swifts nesting at your home you are extremely lucky, they pair for life and return to the same nest site each year to raise their young.

Photo by Dan Richards

They like to nest high up and squeeze through tiny gaps to nest inside our roofs and old buildings. Recently Swift were added to the red list making them the highest conservation priority, this is not just due to lack of insects (insects have declined 50% since the 70s) for them to eat but as more old buildings are renovated the gaps in soffits and brickwork are closed up and Swift nest sites of which they are loyal too are fast disappearing.

Imagine flying all the way back from Africa with your partner to find your house blocked up, in fact swift are known to exhaust themselves to death trying to access their nest sites when blocked.

Photo by Dan Richards

However we can really help swift by installing swift nest boxes wherever we can. Last year I installed Kent’s first artificial Swift colony at Thanet College.

Do take the time this summer to look out for swifts, they are sooty dark brown in colour with long scythe like wings and a forked tail, they are the sound of our summer as they scream whilst flying low and fast around buildings.

Photo by Dan Richards

They are the fastest bird in level flight and reach top speeds of 69 miles an hour. You won’t see Swift perching because they don’t have thumbs and they rarely use their feet as they are absolute dedicated little flying machines.

If you want to know more about Swift and how to help them head to If you’re considering putting up some nest boxes I can be found on their website as a local expert to help you.