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Two young Common Swifts (Apus apus) left their nest in late July within about two minutes of each other.  They were able to fly steadily after a few seconds.


Fledging of young Swifts

In Essen, Germany, in late July, 1997, two young Common Swifts were seen leaving their nest located in an eave facing south, about seven meter above ground level. They were observed from an adjacent roof slightly higher than the gutter.

At about 6 p.m. the first bird emerged from beneath the gutter.  The light color of the tips of its juvenile feathers gave it an almost yellowish appearance in the evening sun.  It let go of the edge and began beating its wings, but did not have enough power and control to remain airborne, so it skidded across the lawn below, still beating its wings, tracing a small arc on the ground.  After about five to seven wingbeats it had almost completed a counter-clockwise semi-circle and reached a spot that was sufficiently smooth to enable it to regain the air.

It rose in a slight counter-clockwise arc, passing so close by the nest that it was partly obscured by the gutter for a moment, possibly even touching the house once more.  After a semi-circle in the air it then disappeared from view behind a tree.

The second Swift appeared about two minutes later and flew a similar loop, but stayed clear of the ground by about one meter, and did not return as close to the nest as the first one had done.  It left towards the east, so apparently both birds departed in roughly the same direction.

They both beat their wings rapidly but did not gain speed as quickly as an experienced adult Swift would have done.  However, they seemed capable of controlled flight after only three or four seconds.

Received 05.07.2000

© APUSlife 2000, No. 2400
ISSN 1438-2261

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