ecological society ČIOPA


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Why we named society "Čiopa" or "Common swift"?

Common swift (Apus apus, Linne 1758) is very often summer bird in our region and believed to be one of Dubrovnik symbols. Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU - Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) from Bonn acclaimed common swift as the bird of 2003. That makes it 33rd bird in the roll since that union acclaims rare and endangered species once in a year. This species is still not endangered but NABU wanted in this way to stress the importance of preserving its’ nests and nesting places and of species that make nests in similar locations.

Common swift belong to family Apodidae. They spend most of the time in the air, the most among the birds. They have long, tight and curved wings and short, usually forked tail that allow fast flying. Many common swifts fly faster, stronger and speedier than swallows, usually circling and gliding without wafts. Commonly occur in the big and noisy swarms. Some species feed on flying insects in the morning and evening and usually spend the night high in the air, flying while sleeping. During the day they could feed at low altitudes, same as swallows, especially if it’s cold and damp. They have short legs and never stand on the ground (but exceptionally) or trees, but they could hang on cliff’s sides or buildings. With the exception of nesting period when resting from dusk, they spent day and night flying.

Common swift is relatively small; body length is 16-17 cm, wing-span 42-48 cm and weight around 35 g. Long wings like a sickle, short tail and completely dark plumes distinguish common swift from other regional swallows. Its areal is Europe and North Africa, and Asia till Kazakhstan. It’s the most prevailing species from family Apodidae in Eurasia, and the only that nests in northern Europe.

Main plumes are bistre but new feathers have greenish reflection, most prominent on the scalp. Whitish neck is less notable in young individuals. Flight feathers and those on rump, abdomen and underside wings are browner. Young individuals distinguish from adults with slightly darker plumes, bigger patch on the neck and brighter feather and body borders.

Males and females build nest together from straws, grass stalks, sprigs and feathers and bind them with saliva. Males choose appropriate nest place. Females lay 2-3 oblong eggs that hatch twenty days after. Young are fed by both parents. They become independent after 42 (38-56) days and returning to nest. After two years they are reproductively mature. They are nesting in colonies once a year in May and June. Colony consists of 30-40 couples. Common swift is monogamous and chosen couples stay together for many years. Lives approximately 7 years, but once a 21 years old common swift was caught as one of the oldest found.

Formerly they nested mostly on the cliffs, in caves, rock cracks and tree holes, and nowadays they also build their nests in wall cracks and roofs of old buildings. However, modern buildings with their plane surfaces and more polluted air cause decreasing in number of common swifts in bigger cities.

ecological society Čiopa - Dubrovnik

Common swift is a remarkable flyer with exceptionally suitable body shape for life in the air. He flies briskly circling, winnowing and gliding. Some groups chasing between themselves just above the houses in the cities and countryside are croaking. They maintain most of the time in the air finding food, mating, collecting nest material, and sometimes sleep while flying. They prefer altitudes above 50 m. You can find them in the nests only when it’s cold or in reproductive period.

They feed exclusively on flying insects and spiders that catches while flying above fresh water, open and inhabited areas. When weather is changing and air pressure is low, they flies right above aquatic areas and feeding on aquatic insects that therefore comes flying out of the water. It’s interesting how common swifts gather insects in their throat and glue them together in balls and not bring them apiece to their cubs in nests. Each ball numbers 300 insects in average. Adult bird can bring to the nest near 3000 insects and spiders per day. Population of common swifts was observed in Gibraltar and was notified that 3000 couples catch near 18 millions insects per day for their cubs and their selves.

Common swift is migratory species. They go wintering in Africa in late July and early August when their young strengthen and get plumes. They return in first half of April, migrating in great swarms around 80 000 individuals. Common swifts can fly over 190 000 kilometres per year.

They are faithful to their native area and come to the same place where hatched. They are common in the Old City of Dubrovnik and recognizable for their cries that make special high-sounding scenery of the City.


Source: Zrnčević Z (2003) Crna čiopa - ptica 2003. godine! Priroda, (5) 93, number 910, 36 – 37.

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