How to identify Swifts 

Swifts are found in towns, whereas few of the similar birds shown below are found there, except House Martins. They rarely touch down on land so you don’t have to look in bushes, lawns or gardens or parks. They are always in flight, except just as they go in a nest hole. If you see them over lakes or gravel pits they are feeding and their nest sites could be miles away. So, to find their nest sites you have to look near buildings, often older houses and taller places.

Common Swift (Right)

Dark brown/blackish and flies very fast, often in groups. Sometimes very, very high in the air.  Streamlined with wings outstretched most of the time making an obvious shape. Rarely do any other birds behave like Swifts, screaming around our buildings in towns.

Barn Swallow(Right)

Much more colourful, long tail streamers,  does not scream - it twitters! Mainly seen near stables and farm buildings, rarely in towns. It is pale underneath, whereas a Swift is always dark. Swallows rarely fly as high as Swifts can, and flap their wings more flying at lower levels. The shape of the bird is less streamlined.

House Martin (Left)

Nests in similar places to Swifts but builds an obvious nest of mud against the eaves of a building. They fly more slowly with much flapping of wings. The easy way to identify is that they have a white rump, whereas our Swifts never have a white rump. Again they are not as streamlined as a Swift.

Please send breeding House Martins details to  They are also becoming more rare.

Sand Martin (Right)

These birds may be seen over water and often in sand pits where they breed. They are predominantly brown in colour and don’t have the long tail streamers of a Swallow, or the white rump of a House Martin, and have shorter, less sleek  wings than the Swift. Again, they are not normally found in towns.