Beijing Swifts on BBC2

About a year ago, the BBC Natural History Unit was in contact about the feasibility of filming the Beijing Swift for a forthcoming series on urban wildlife.  After introducing them to local experts, including Professors Gao and Zhao, the China Birdwatching Society and the Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the BBC applied for permission to visit and film the Swifts in the Chinese capital.  One of the locations was the Summer Palace, where the China Birdwatching Society has been studying the colony of 200+ birds for more than 10 years.  It was here that, in 2014, the Society collaborated with experts from Europe on the Beijing Swift Project, tracking the migration of these avian wonders and discovering for the first time their migration route and wintering grounds in southern Africa.

The new series – “Cities: Nature’s New Wild” – is being shown on BBC2 and the Beijing Swifts are due to appear in episode three on Sunday 13 January (2000-2100).  For those who can’t wait that long, a trailer about the Beijing Swift is available on the BBC website.

It’s fantastic exposure for Beijing’s Swifts and the people working to support them.

If you’re in the UK on the evening of Sunday 13th January, put the kettle on, settle into your favourite armchair and enjoy….


UPDATE 9 January: The BBC Natural History Unit has informed me that the Beijing Swifts will now NOT be shown in episode 3 of “Cities: Nature’s New Wild” on BBC2 on 13 January.  Instead, episode 3 of the UK version of the series will include a segment on Indonesian Swiftlets.  The Beijing Swifts will feature in the international version of the series.  I’m awaiting broadcast details.  Updates will appear here as more information is available.




8 thoughts on “Beijing Swifts on BBC2”

  1. Hi Terry,
    Great work with the swifts. When are you going to come down here to help me find Swinhoe’s rail in Suncheon Bay?
    Wishing you a Happy and a great birding New Year 2019.
    Haeundae Beach, Busan.

    1. Thank you, Arthur..! I’m not sure I can make it to Korea this winter but maybe you can invite Nial Moores of Birds Korea? I am sure he will be interested to have a look.. Wishing you a wonderful and bird-filled 2019! Terry

    1. Thank you, Tom!! The BBC has promised to send over the Beijing Swift segment, so hopefully it will be available to watch for those not in the UK. Wishing you a wonderful 2019!

  2. Thanks to all involved in swift migration study. I love nature. Your have answered my life long question. As a child I looked at these amazing birds flying in the sky in Mosul-Iraq, never touch down. Now at 75 I still see them heigh in the sky of Amman- Jordan. Both cities fall on the path of migration obtained by researchers. I am so glad to know the information on this amazing bird.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Dr Sadon. Your area is very important for migratory birds, not only for Swifts but also many other Eurasian birds that connect their continent to Africa. Swifts are certainly special as they spend so much time in the air and have cultural significance wherever they settle to breed. Thanks again and best wishes, Terry

      1. I am gratefull to your reaction on my comment. You incourage me to ask more questios. Is the swift the only bird known to stay in air so long.. Then how long is nest time.
        Another question about Asian STORK, these birds used to visit my village every spring- summer, (mosul-iraq) till 1950s and 60s. Nesting on top of quiet House or building. Not comming back since. To your knowledge, Is that due to global or local environment changes. Thanks.

      2. I believe the Common Swift (Apus apus) is the bird that spends the greatest proportion of its life in the air. An evolutionary professor once told me that the Swift was at the vanguard of evolution; there are species whose whole life cycle is in the ocean or on land but none yet reliant only on the air. The Swift comes closest and he expected that, if evolution is allowed to continue, the Swift may evolve to give birth to live young on the wing! In Beijing, the Swifts arrive in mid-April and depart by the end of July, so their breeding cycle is short – about three months from arrival to the young fledging. I am not sure about the reasons for the decline in the White Stork in your area. I believe many populations are declining due to a combination of factors including habitat loss (on breeding and wintering grounds), persecution and probably others, too.

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