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Growth of wing feathers



The following photos show the development of the lower part of the left wing of a Common Swift chick. The chick was hand reared by Hilde Matthes, after it fell out of the nest. This is why the exact age of the chick is unknown. The average age, at which the fledglings fly out is the 42th day. This chick's age had to be estimated. The weight of the chick was regularly measured. Note that young chicks soon achieve a high weight as a reserve for periods of food shortage. Before they fledge, Swift chicks loose their excess weight, and the same holds true for hand reared chicks as well, as you can clearly see here.  

In nest sites with adequate space, the Swift chicks begin to stretch and beat their wings very early on. Young Swifts can only fly when they achieve the correct body mass to wing length ratio: they put their wings down to the floor and push their body up, so that the feet do not touch the ground. They keep that position for some seconds (see last movie clip at

The wings are fully grown, when the "pin feathers" (feathers still within the quill sheath that protects them upon emergence from the skin) have disappeared, around the 42nd day of age. In the photos shown here you can see them until the age of day 37, but they still remain under the feathers for some more days. One can see them by blowing gently and parting the feathers

All photos: Hilde Matthes

Ca. 19 days old, 45 grams



Ca. 21 days old, 48 grams



Ca. 22 days old, 48 grams



Ca. 24 days old, 50 grams



Ca. 25 days old, 52 grams



Ca. 26 days old, 53 grams



Ca. 27 days old, 53 grams



Ca. 30 days old, 54 grams



Ca. 31 days old, 53 grams



Ca. 32 days old, 54 grams



Ca. 33 days old, 53 grams



Ca. 34 days old, 54 grams



Ca. 35 days old, 52 grams



Ca. 36 days old, 50 grams



Ca. 37 days old, 49 grams



Ca. 39 days old, 47 grams



Ca. 41 days old, 46 grams



Ca. 42 days old, 45 grams



Click here to see how to assess the age and growth of chicks

Click here to get tips on hand rearing


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