Little Swift

Apus affinis

In South Africa, the Little Swift is a resident bird that has actually experienced a population boom and rapid range expansion in the last century, thanks to its propensity to use buildings and other human-made structures for breeding. As a result, the IUCN considers it to be of least concern. It occurs all over South Africa, and also most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. pockets of the Middle East and much of India.

Little Swifts are not at all picky about their habitat though they do require easy access to a water supply and usually avoid high altitude terrain. Little Swifts will often form mixed flocks with other swifts and swallows, hunting for a wide range of flying insects.

As mentioned already, Little Swifts build their nests, often in colonies of up to 30 monogamous pairs, in shelter provided by man-made structures like buildings, bridges and silos, though naturally they would utilise rocky overhangs and cliffs for the purpose. These nests are untidy conglomerations of feathers and plant material glued together with saliva and often used for several consecutive years. They breed in spring and summer, with both parents sharing the duty of incubating the clutch of 1-4 eggs over a 3-4 week period. The chicks stay in the nest until they’re almost 6 weeks old, but become independent very quickly thereafter. Fully grown Little Swifts weigh around 25g and measure only about 13cm in length.

As beautifully elegant as they are in the air, Little Swifts are almost entirely helpless when they are unfortunate enough to end up on the ground, which seems to happen surprisingly often when they swoop after prey close to the ground; their short legs and long wings make it almost impossible to launch from the ground.

19 thoughts on “Little Swift

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Luckily for the one shown here I could offer my hand as a platform to take off from, Tracy.

      I’ve also seen swifts flocking in front of an approaching storm – I wonder if it is easier for them to catch their prey in the swirling wind?

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  1. Anne

    The White-rumped Swifts have returned here with increasing numbers – no sign of the Lesser-striped Swallows yet. It is intriguing to see so many pictures of Little Swifts on the ground – what do you do to them Dries? You are obviously around at the right time to see them 🙂

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      😀
      It’s the same hapless individual in those particular images, Anne. Poor guy mistimed his dive to get into the eaves of the laundry building at Satara’s campsite and thudded into the ground. Luckily for him I could lend a hand before the resident African Wild Cats came prowling past…

      I actually only noticed the first Lesser-striped Swallow of the season in Pretoria this morning along a tributary of the Moreletaspruit. Hopefully in another week or two they’d have made their way down to the Eastern Cape too.

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