Meet Taylor (yeah, yeah, I know) who Rosie (our cat) brought into our garden a few days ago. It’s a juvenile swift – not that we knew that at the time. Rosie dropped it and we quickly grabbed her and popped her inside and gave the swift a quick look to see if it looked reasonably uninjured and then left it, assuming it would fly off given a bit of time.
Except it didn’t. It was getting dark and Rosie was throwing herself at every available exit in a bid to escape and get back to Taylor, so we took the decision to pop a box over Taylor and give it a chance to have a rest, guessing that either it would die or would be better rested to fly off the next day.
Sunday we gingerly took off the box to see a very active Taylor who still showed no signs of flying off. At this point I got a bit concerned and so we googled swifts to try to work out what we should do. Swifts are very specialised insectivores and their care is very difficult!
We tried to help it take off by taking it over to the neighbour’s (lovely) garden – where there’s grass for a soft landing – and Taylor would simply jump of Nin’s hand and sail to the ground (some places advise throwing Swifts to get them airborne NEVER EVER do this it is incorrect advice, rather pop them on your hand facing out and gently move your hand up and down to try to encourage the swift to take off). So we gave it some water on a make-up brush and Nin set about catching various flies and spiders and crushing them up (yuck!) and then feeding them to Taylor. She did this every hour and a half (!) during daylight hours – quite some commitment. NEVER feed a swift bread, only ever insects – they are very specialised feeders who catch their food ‘on the wing’ and therefore you have to physically feed them rather than just pop some food in a saucer nearby (this makes them a very ‘hands-on’ bird to deal with – although very friendly, it turns out).
Monday came and we started trying to find out what we could do about Taylor as it was clear it wasn’t taking off. We phoned the wonderful http://swift-conservation.org/ who confirmed for us (by asking me to measure a wing) that we actually had a juvenile swift on our hands and that they’d been inundated with them this year as they were being abandoned by their parents who were returning to Africa (as the first brood had mostly failed due to the weather, so this was the second brood taking too long to fully fledge).
They advised that Taylor needed to be looked over by a vet (to check whether they were injured where we couldn’t see due to Rosie having caught it) so Monday evening we took Taylor to the vet to be checked over. Turns out it was fine on that front and we were told to leave it there for feeding and care (as we would’ve struggled to keep up with hour-and-a-halfly feeds for the next few weeks until it would’ve been old enough to fly).
Our short experience with Taylor showed us a little snippet of just how committed the various wildlife rescue places must be in order to hand-rear/rehabilitate animals and I can only say what an immense amount of respect I have for these people.
Please do visit Swift Conservation: http://swift-conservation.org/ and consider donating to this small charity who care so much for the wonderful swifts that visit our country. Amazing birds and amazing charity!