During the last few months of my project I spent the majority of my time caring for the our army of (once peaking at 90) juvenile and adult swifts, with the number mostly made up of juveniles. The very basic daily care involved feeding each swift at usually at least 4 times a day. For adult Common and Pallid Swifts this would consist of 40 mealworms, and for Alpine Swifts it was likely over 100. The boxes in which they are kept would also have to be changed at least once a day, and each swift needed to be weighed every 2 days. These tasks would of course become more difficult than you would otherwise anticipate because the juvenile swifts once they had grown strong enough, and had energy to spare, would spend it on trying to and were not that infrequently successful in escaping their boxes. Consequently, a lot of time and energy would be wasted in finding then returning the missing swifts to their correct boxes by matching them to their individual identification paper and coloured tag.
The responsibilities of this care increase when considering other tasks that quickly became part of the routine:
- adding daily supplements such as a calcium/phosphate powder to the mealworms, active microorganism to the water
- administering any specified medication that had been prescribed by a vet and was written on the bird's identification paper
- monitoring of physical and neurological behaviour of the birds, and then raising any concerns with a vet, or, acting upon them if for example the bird was cold it can be placed in the warm room (if it is in its own separate box)
-regular cleaning of work space and gloves (or changing) in order to minimise spread of infection or causing it by damaging and dirtying feathers and eyes.
Although at times this extremely demanding work de to its monotony and long working hours, caring for these birds became a very fulfilling responsibility as over time they became more than just a task, but creatures to which I had formed an emotional attachment.