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23 May 2015

Special first moments captured on video when second swift returns from migration

Swifts. Photo: Shaun Hurrell
The special moments the second swift returned from migration in Africa. Photo & video: Shaun Hurrell
By Shaun Hurrell

How would you behave when reunited with a loved one after spending 9 months apart? (and after spending 9 months without sitting down!)

For the BirdLife swifts, spending so long apart on their migrations to Africa is a yearly occurrence. But this is the first time the very first moments of being reunited have been captured on camera - from a nestbox on the side of the BirdLife offices in Cambridge, UK.

Swift, Apus apusmate for life and tend to return to the same nextboxes year after year. However, the incredible little birds spend almost thier entire lives flying - they even sleep on the wing - and pairs take separate migration routes.

Recorded by BirdLife staff during their lunch, the footage below most-likely shows a pair re-affirming their bonds in preparation for nesting.

According to local experts, the 'wing flapping' behaviour exibited in the video is a way of stopping aggression when the two meet again or when a bird attracts a new partner. However, courtship and encouraging a new prospective partner to use a nestbox are usually rather more drawn-out affairs than the behaviours displayed here, thus it is very likely that this is last year's pair meeting up again and re-affirming their bond. Ahhhh :)

Spending only 3 months in Europe to breed, these swifts in Cambridge are 'on loan' from our central and southern African colleagues. Swifts have one of the longest migrations of any bird in the region of 22,000 km.

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Every year, BirdLife staff wait with excited anticipation for the sound of screeching swifts around the BirdLife offices. But with knowledge of challenges migratory birds face in the Mediterranean and the huge threat of illegal killing, this is always a worry.

Swifts are already struggling because of the lack of traditional roofing eaves and spaces for them to nest, so installing a swift box on your house in Europe is one of the best things you can do to help the species.

Thanks to Dick Newell from Action for Swifts for installing the nestbox and camera at Bird Life's offices in Cambridge, and to Edward Mayer and Mark Smyth from Swift Conservation for their advice.

The arrival of migratory birds signals a change in seasons, when life is in full swing. Use this cue to get out and enjoy nature, and at the same time give something back. Follow our advice and make simple changes to make your garden, balcony, or school bird-friendly with Spring Alive this year.

Spring Alive is a movement started by a BirdLife, organised by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) to encourage children and adults to take action for the migratory birds they learn about. This season, Spring Alive has provided easy-to-use information and directions to help you to help birds. 

And once you have done it – share it – show and tell us about your achievements on the Spring Alive facebook and flickr pages!


Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at karolina.kalinowska@otop.org.pl

For more information go to: www.springalive.net

Follow Spring Alive on facebookYouTube and flickr.


Spring Alive project would not be possible without the great support of The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA), Spring Alive’s main sponsor. The aims of the MCFEA are to encourage the appreciation and conservation of flora and fauna with an emphasis on endangered species.