Apus apus - Martinet noir
- Size: 17 cm
- Wingspan: 42 à 48 cm.
- Weight: 38 à 45 g
The Common Swift is recognizable in flight by its silhouette, its look and its dark plumage. The bird has a big head with a hunched neck, long scythe-like wings and a pointed tail. Its large size (wingspan of about 45 cm) is not always evident on the ground because of its slender silhouette. The wings have a very long and pointed hand, the second primary P2 (P9 for English) being the longest. The tail has 12 rectrices while all other swifts have 10. There is no sexual dimorphism. The plumage of the adult is generally sooty black with a lighter throat. At close and very good light, the underside of the body appears slightly mottled. The remiges and the rectrices have a glossy appearance which makes them appear lighter in underside view, especially when the ground reflects strong light. The juvenile has an even darker plumage, with a more contrasted white throat and lighter edgings, especially visible on the head taking on a frosted aspect, and on the front of the wing. Two sub-species are described, the eastern subspecies pekinensis having a more contrasted plumage and a lighter throat, but the difference is slight. The Common Swift could be confused with a swallow due to its long scythe-like wings and forked tail, but no swallow is as big, flies in the same way and, at least in Europe, has black undersides. The scythe-like wings are an adaptation to fast aerial displacements, developed by the two groups, systematically very distant, and constituting what is called a morphological convergence, resulting in a superficial resemblance. To the south of its breeding ground, it can mostly be confused with a close species, the Pallid Swift, whose plumage is a bit lighter, more brown, with a paler throat, but the difference can be subtle in bad light.Let's not speak of sub-Saharan Africa which holds a number of species of entirely dark Common Swifts.
Subspecific information 2 subspecies
- Apus apus apus (w Europe and n Africa to c Siberia)
- Apus apus pekinensis (n Iran to n China and Mongolia)
- Martinet noir,
- Vencejo común,
- Rondone comune,
- dážďovník obyčajný,
- rorýs obecný,
- Europese Windswael,
- falciot negre,
- jerzyk (zwyczajny),
- Чёрный стриж,
Voice song and cries
The cry of the Common Swift is a high-pitched shrill trill. The bird is not stingy with it, especially during the typical aerial pursuits of the species. It also emits it at the nest, particularly when a noisy flock passes nearby. There is no song as such. The young at the nest emit a small begging crackle, which is also typical.
The Common Swift's breeding habitat, the only one that can be precisely defined, is a type of rock habitat.
Behaviour character trait
The Common Swift, like all its relatives, is excellently adapted to the aerial environment it exploits skilfully. Its flight performances are extraordinary as we shall see later. It is a great migrator whose winter range is very far from its breeding range, thus carrying out very long migrations. In temperate climates, the return of the first migrants takes place around mid-April and continues until May. On the other hand, the departure at the end of summer is sudden and massive. By the end of July, once the juveniles have taken off, the great majority of swifts leave us. Some rare latecomers may still be seen at the end of August or in September, probably birds occupied with a late nest. The lifespan of the Common Swift is more than 20 years. What we mainly see of this bird in urban areas are the quick and noisy pursuits that they indulge in during the whole of the fine season around buildings. These are hard to miss out on, just like the reconnaissance flights of potential breeding sites under the roofs in accordance with an unchangeable scenario. The birds arrive with an ascending flight underneath the edge of a roof, pretend or actually land briefly while inspecting the area, take off again to come back right away.
The Common Swift's flight, like most swifts, is a direct and very fast flight, due to short but quick and energetic beats of its long, sickle shaped wings.
The Common Swift feeds on what is usually known as aerial plankton. Just like the waters contain organisms of different sizes living in its mass, the aerial environment contains a multitude of small animals during the summer, mainly flying insects, some of which are dragged away on sunny days by the winds and aerial currents to great heights.
The Common Swift is monogamous. Unless something unexpected happens, couples may be together for life as suggested by the observation of a couple occupying the same nest for ten consecutive years.
Common Swift is an Eurasian species, present from the Atlantic Coast, including British and Irish islands, to the east of Mongolia, the northeast of China and Eastern Siberia. Its range reaches the Pacific coast in the South China Sea near Beijing. North of Beijing, it surpasses the polar circle up to Tromso and Murmansk, but it rarely ventures further into northern Siberia. The southern limit passes through the Maghreb, the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan. The 'apus' subspecies occupies Europe, northern Africa, and reaches east as far as Lake Baikal. From southeast Iran to Mongolia and northern China lies the subspecies 'pekinensis'. Its wintering area is entirely disconnected and located in Africa, especially south of the Equator, including for Asian birds.
Threats - protection
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild
The Common Swift is a common bird that is not currently threatened, although some localized declines have been noted. The main threat to breeding birds is the scarcity of potential nesting sites. Indeed, the renovation of buildings (facades and roofs) is a constant concern in an urban environment and unfortunately, it often deprives the swifts of the possibility of nesting. In general, birds are not taken into account in renovation projects. People are usually looking to prevent access to buildings for nuisances such as pigeons or jackdaws, thus depriving others, such as the Barn Owl, of the possibility of nesting. For swifts, people even don't consider it. But on a personal level, when I had my facades redone, I asked the contractor to leave holes under the roof so that the swifts could access their nests. He looked at me with big eyes. Obviously, it was a first for him.
Sources of information
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: 07-02-2018 - Updated: 06-03-2018
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