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Swifts: Apodidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Swifts become active at dawn. They are noisy and live in large groups called colonies. Some species migrate, flying from an area with harsh winter weather to a warmer climate where there is a larger food supply.

Swifts are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), mating with one partner. Birds make nests out of twigs, feathers, and items they find while flying. To hold the material together, swifts use their saliva, the liquid solution in their mouths, which hardens around the nest material.

The female swift lays one to six eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs, sitting on them to keep them warm in order for them to hatch. Eggs hatch in nineteen to twenty-eight days. Both parents feed the young. Other swifts, called cooperative breeders, may assist the parents in feeding. The adults carry insects for the young in pouches located below their tongues.

Cave swiftlets use only saliva when building their nests. People in Asia take the nests of some swiftlets and use them as the main ingredient in bird's nest soup. Since caves are dark, cave swiftlets use echolocation (eck-oh-loh-KAY-shun) to guide them as they move around in the caves. The birds make a sound and listen to the echoes that bounce off the surfaces.


Swifts depend on the weather for their food supply. They rely on breezes to blow insects in their direction. During a storm, rain washes the insects away, depleting the swifts' food supply. Cold weather also decreases the number of insects for the birds to feed on. For swift nestlings too young to fly, the solution is becoming torpid. Nestlings enter torpor, a state in which their body temperature drops and their heartbeat slows. In this state, birds can go for ten days without food.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsSwifts: Apodidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Chimney Swift (chaetura Pelagica): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, SWIFTS AND PEOPLE