Baby Swifts 'Being Cooked' Alive As They Leave Nests in 100F Heat Wave

Hundreds of baby birds have been found scattered around streets in southern Spain after falling from their nests in a desperate attempt to escape an extreme summer heat wave.

The birds, swifts specifically, often make their nests in buildings where construction materials such as concrete or sheet metal are used. These conditions, combined with an ongoing Spanish heat wave that has seen temperatures soar to over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days, can turn their nests into ovens.

"They're literally being cooked," said Elena Moreno Portillo, an animal activist at the Seville-based conservation group Ecourbe told The Guardian newspaper.

Baby swift
A stock photo shows a baby swift being held in someone's hand. Thousands of the birds face a life-threatening early heat wave in Spain. intek1/Getty

The group's Facebook page shows how people have been collecting boxes full of the baby birds. In Seville and Cordoba, where there are large urban colonies of swifts, as many as 100 have been collected in a single day.

Hundreds of the birds have been sent to recovery centers where it is hoped that surviving individuals can be nursed back to health. Many more have not been so lucky.

One volunteer, Diego, told Seville newspaper Diario de Sevilla that he had been going to the city's airport every day to collect live young that are found in need of assistance, as there's a colony that lives there.

Over the past week or so, Diego said he has collected around 80 individuals who were then sent to the Center for the Recovery of Endangered Birds (CREA) located in San Jerónimo. However, he said that the number of fatalities far outweigh the survivors.

The reason this is happening this year is because of how early this Spanish heat wave has arrived. Typically, temperatures such as this are common in July or August, but not in June.

Coincidentally, June is also breeding season for the swifts. If the heat wave had arrived later in the year like it generally does, it's likely that many of the birds would have been able to fly, Moreno Portillo said.

Spain's AEMET weather agency has said that the current heat wave is the earliest one registered since 1981—over 40 years ago. Spain's minister for ecological transition, Teresa Ribera, called it "extraordinarily worrying" according to news outlet The Local.

Across the country, people have been advised to drink plenty of fluids and stay in the shade as much as they can. Meanwhile, soaring temperatures are also affecting the U.S. and have been cited as the cause of death of thousands of cows.

Scientists have warned repeatedly that air temperatures on Earth have been rising since the Industrial Revolution and that human activities are mostly responsible for global warming, one aspect of climate change.

Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the past decade, according to NASA.