Swift, the general name of the cypselidoe, a subfamily of birds formerly placed among the swallows, hut by modern ornithologists ranked as a separate family coming near the humming birds, on account of certain anatomical peculiarities, and particularly of the absence of singing muscles in the lower larynx. The swifts resemble the swallows in habits and in their general form; the bill is more suddenly curved, unprovided with bristles at the base; nostrils very large, oblong, with an elevated margin; wings extremely long, curved and narrow, with ten primaries; tarsi short and weak, and more or less feathered; toes short and thick, and all four are or may be directed forward; claws strong and curved; ten feathers in the tail. They are very swift and graceful fliers, feeding exclusively on insects, which they capture on the wing; they are migratory like the swallows, but do not mingle with them and are less hardy; most of them nestle in hollow trees, holes' in buildings, or crevices in rocks; some species rear two or three broods in a season. - In the genus cypselus (Illig.) the second quill is the longest, and the tarsi are feathered to the base of the toes; it is peculiar to the old world.
The common European swift or black martin (G. apus, Illig.) is 7½ in. long, with a forked tail; it is blackish brown above with a green gloss, and the throat grayish white. It appears in Great Britain in May, departing in August. * The extreme shortness of the legs renders walking and rising from a flat surface almost impossible, but the stout toes and sharp claws form admirable clinging organs for climbing in and out the holes where the nests are placed. The white-bellied swift (G. melha, Illig.) is 8½- in. long, grayish brown above and white below, the legs covered with brown feathers; it is common in southern Europe, especially in mountainous regions. - In the genus choetura (Steph.) or acanthylis (Boie) the tail is very short, about two fifths of the wings, slightly rounded, the shafts stiffened and extending beyond the feathers as rigid spines; first quill the longest; legs covered with a naked skin. The species are found in North and South America, Australia, and the East Indies; they live in flocks, and breed usually in holes of trees, but sometimes in crevices in rocks, and the eggs are usually four.
The American swift or chimney swallow (G. pela-gica, Baird) is 5¼ in. long and 12½ in. in alar extent; it is sooty brown above with a greenish tinge, a little paler on the rump, and considerably lighter from the bill to the breast; it is found from the eastern states to the slopes of the Rocky mountains, arriving from the south by the end of April or beginning of May, and departing during the first half of September. This species naturally makes its nest in hollow trees, but in the neighborhood of man builds in such chimneys as are not used in summer for fires; the nest is made of twigs snapped off from a dead tree during flight, fastened together by viscid saliva, without soft lining, and is generally placed from 5 to 8 ft. from the entrance; the eggs are pure white. They pass in and out the chimney with great rapidity, making a whirring sound like distant thunder; there are sometimes 200 in a single chimney. - In the genus collocalia (Gray) the bill is very small, wings very long, tail moderate and nearly even, and tarsi naked. The esculent swift or swallow (G. [Mrundo] escu-lenta, Gray) is the principal maker of the celebrated nests so highly esteemed by the Chinese as articles of food. (See Birds' Nest, Edible.) The eggs are two in this genus.
There are many other species of swifts, both in the old world and the new.
White-bellied Swift (Cypselus melba).
Esculent Swift (Oollocalia esculeuta).
Swift, a W. county of Minnesota, bordering S. W. on the Minnesota river, and intersected by the Chippewa and Pomme de Terre rivers; area, about 750 sq. m. It has been formed since the census of 1870. The surface is rolling, with numerous small lakes; the soil is good. The St. Paul and Pacific railroad traverses the county. Capital, Benson.