'Swift' is an apt name for this group, which includes the world's fastest flying bird, the White-throated Needletail. Swifts spend almost all their life on the wing, eating, sleeping and mating. They only come to 'land' to nest. Our Common Swifts, which migrate to Africa each year, may fly 300,000 miles non-stop between fledging late one summer and first landing at a potential nest site two summers later.
All swifts share short, feathered feet and sickle-shaped wings made up of ten elongated primaries, which gives them great speed and maneuverability in the air, as well as providing an extremely efficient gliding flight. Unfortunately it means they also find it very difficult to get airborne. Most species have a fairly dull plumage and all share the same piercing screams, which must be one of the most evocative sounds of summer. Swifts make a nest on a ledge or overhang from mud which is glued together by their saliva (the smaller swiftlet's nest is made entirely from saliva and provides the basis for bird's-nest soup).