There is, perhaps,
no bird more conspicuous when it comes to its migratory habits than the
swift - whereas the other migratory birds seem to straggle, as such, into
the country, the Swifts arrive almost simultaneously, so that on one day
not a single Swift will be seen, and on the next the air is full of their
dark, glancing forms.
Like the swallow,
the Swift haunts the neighbourhood of man, and loves to build its simple
nest in the roofs of houses. Almost any hole will do for a Swift to
build in, provided that it be reasonably deep, as
the bird loves
darkness for its nest, though it is essentially, in its habits, a bird
Perhaps the word
'build' is scarcely the right one, considering that the nest is even more
simple than that of the sand-martin. This latter bird does indeed arrange
with some regularity the feathers which compose its nest, whereas the Swift
merely places together a quantity of hay, straw, hair, feathers, and similar
material, all of which are probably obtained from the ruins of a sparrow's
nest which had occupied the hole before the swift took possession of it.
The shrill cries
and perpetual chattering of the Swift, betray its presence while it is
sailing in the air almost beyond the perception of human eyes. There is
a wailing, melancholy sound about the bird's cry.
There are numerous
species of Swift. Some, like the Common Swift, even sleep and mate
during flight. The Alpine Swift, a bird which is rare in England,
though it occasionally visits UK shores, is much larger than the common
Swift, and is brown above and white below, instead of being dusky black,
like the common species.
The most characteristic species is, however, the Galilean Swift. Of this kind, the 19th century
scholar, HB Tristram, who travelled much in Palestine, remarks that
it is 'very like the house-martin in general appearance and size.
It resides all the year in the Jordan valley, where alone it is found,
living in large communities, and has a pleasing note, a gentle and melodious
wail, very different from the harsh scream of the other swifts. Its nests
are very peculiar, being composed generally of straw and feathers, agglutinated
together by the bird's saliva, like those of the edible swallow of Eastern
Asia. They are without any lining, attached to the under side of an overhanging
rock. It also sometimes takes possession of the nest of the rufous swallow
for its purposes. The Galilean swift has a wide range, being found in India