SWIFT V HIRUNDINES

Bird Watching (UK) - - May Id Challenge -

Many be­gin­ner bird­watch­ers get con­fused be­tween the swal­lows and martins (aka hirundines) and the Swift. They are all long winged, mostly fork-tailed birds which do just about all of their feed­ing in con­tin­u­ous flight. But dis­tin­guish­ing them is ac­tu­ally pretty straight­for­ward. Hirundines are ac­tu­ally perch­ing birds (passer­ines), whereas Swifts are in a sep­a­rate or­der, the Apod­i­formes (which, cu­ri­ously, they share with the hum­ming­birds as well as the tree swifts). One char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Apod­i­formes is that they have very short legs and, in the case of the Swift, they are so short that a grounded Swift can find it ex­tremely hard or im­pos­si­ble to take off. So, if you see either a hirun­dine or a Swift perched on a wire, or fence, or in a tree, or on the ground, it will be a hirun­dine. Swifts only come back to earth at the nest sites, where they dis­ap­pear into a roof be­fore you can even see them perched! Swifts are all dark, very long winged and much larger than our hirundines. A Swift is up to 18.5cm long with a wing­span of 40-44cm and a House Martin is 15cm long with a wing­span of 26-29cm.

They are all long winged, mostly fork-tailed­birds which do just about all of their feed­ing in con­tin­u­ous flight

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