Every year, thousands of common swift chicks and fledglings, repeatedly, arrive at European Wildlife Recovery Centres thanks to the citizens' collaboration. This happens in very specific periods of time, temporarily collapsing their facilities and their staff.
The strong seasonality of this event is marked by the swift breeding season. Chicks and fledglings jump prematurely from their nests in an attempt to survive the asphyxiating heat generated in these cavities.
This situation has significantly in recent years due to the increasingly intense summer heat waves, so that many volunteers must temporarily join in to support the work of caring for these animals.
To this must be added the complication of feeding the hatchlings up to eight times a day (depending on their age and the feeding protocol implemented in each centre), based on live or freshly dead insects, complemented with the essential nutritional supplements that balance their nutritional composition.
This project aims to define and confirm the applicability and effectiveness of a new hand-rearing protocol for common swifts based on the feeding of a single product: a complete food in gel format. This new protocol should be more effective and efficient than the current standard protocols based on the feeding of live insects and nutritional supplements.
The fundamental axis of the new protocol to be defined is the supply of a complete food (Insect Replacer Gel) with a base of flour insect, which is supplied in gel format and which has been developed specifically for this purpose by the R&D team of the company Psittacus Catalonia SL, at the request of the Psittacus Foundation and the collaborating entity Fundació Natura Parc.
For this study, a group of 50 common swifts (Apus apus) specimens was selected among the first ones received by the centre.
All the swifts received at the centre were physically checked (veterinary examination) by the COFIB veterinary team, both at the entry and at the departure from the centre (release). In addition, the centre's biologists identified the birds with rings, determined their physical condition and took wing length and weight measurements. From then until the end of the project, the same team of biologists was responsible for feeding the birds 4 times a day, feeding the gel prepared from the complete food.
To evaluate the effect of this feeding protocol, the group of 50 birds was monitored periodically for weight, wing length, food consumption, fecal quality, development and quality of plumage, and feeding behaviour, from the time they entered the centre until the time of their release.
All the objectives were more than met, both in zootechnical, conservation and economic terms. The application of this new food concept represents a breakthrough in the way of approaching the challenge of caring for the hundreds of swifts that are received each year in the wildlife recovery centers. We hope to be able to publish a detailed report on the entire project shortly.