Library gets Swift homes
Fitt, who works as a volunteer for
the RSPB in the South West, tells
us the following: "With
the approval of the Devon County Ecologist I check their monthly
planning list and if there are any obvious potential candidates for
Biodiversity enhancement I liaise with the relevant Planning Officer. In
this instance Swift boxes were made a consition of Planning approval, and I worked with their
Architects, the Exeter Office of the NPS Group, on how and where.
We installed Schwegler
Light Weight Swift Box Type 1A's. There is a loud speaker wired to
the Library’s PA System to play calls. Due to ongoing building work,
there was only a very limited opportunity to play the latter last July, but I
was told Swifts came visiting almost immediately and created lots of local interest!
My work with Devon County continues and we are currently working on a number of school projects and the main library in Exeter. As
a consequence of this work I am spreading the word and
two or three schools in Dorset have adopted similar policies."
© John Baggley NPS South West
left: a close-up
view of the eight Schwegler
boxes sunk into the
facade of the new building
in Cullompton, and right,
a general view of the
building, showing how
they augment the street
view. Swifts will be
a very exciting aerial
component of this town's
Swifts take up new boxes
new boxes for Swifts, as shown on
the left, are of the simplest type.
Just a timber box with internal
partitions, fitted under the gutters
of existing buildings. Cheap, and
yet highly effective, as you can
This is the work of
Ingolf Grabow and the Frankfurt
Swift Group 2010, and they are
starting to get results.
over 1400 Swift nestboxes now up
and ready for Swifts in Frankfurt,
they are achieving a successful
breeding occupancy rate of 55% at
one well-monitored site. This is
a remarkable achievement by any
© Ingolf Grabow FMI 2010
nest opportunities created in
Wauters, who works on biodiversity
projects for the Municipality of
Molenbeek in Brussels, has sent
us these photos of a new project
she masterminded to provide Swift
nest places within existing architectural
features in apartment blocks.
sorts of buildings date from the
turn of the 19th Century up to the
First World War, and have interesting
architectural details, in this case
an extended windowsill that goes
across the front of the upper story
and is of hollow construction.
feature was used to provide eight
new self-contained Swift nest places.
© Martine Wauters
the apartment block showing the
extended windowsill. Above right:
the adaptation to house Swift nest
Swift Tower at Belfast
Brian Cahalane, an enthusiastic
supporter of Swifts
in Northern Ireland,
and a man with his own
home colonies of Swifts
and House Martins, has
just sent us this great
photo of the new Swift
Tower at the bus station
by the Stoneyford Engineering
Company to Brian's specifications, this
can be delivered ready-made
to any site in Europe
for a very modest overall
more by e-mail - use
link to Christy Cush
© Bran Cahalane
news on Swift Migration
the past three years researchers
across Europe have been fitting
a handful of Swifts in accessible
breeding colonies with "data-loggers"
minute electronic devices that record
time and daylight.
these are recovered from Swifts
that have migrated to
Africa, they can reveal their route
with some accuracy.
for four projects in Sweden, Germany
and the UK are now known, and
they paint a picture much enhanced
over the minimal results gained
from ringing many thousands
of Swifts over many years.
part this is because Swifts fly
high and do not land. One has to
rely on getting rings back from
birds that die naturally and are
found, or are killed and eaten.
Also, rings cannot tell us
the time spent in any location,
only that it has been visited. The
information gained from them turns out to have been only partial,
huge parts of their migration route
having never been recorded before.
out more - See
the BTO's full report at this
See the full Swedish
flight of A320, a Swift tagged at
Fowlmere on 22 July 2010 and recovered
on its return on 8 May 2011.
Swift spent significant periods (the
on its route (purple) feeding over
lush West African rainforest zones,
and stayed for much of the
Winter over the Congo, (yellow blob)
apart from a significant Christmas
break (yellow arrows & blobs) over Tanzania,
& Mozambique, before returning
(blue route & blobs) to the UK, again spending
time feeding over West Africa.
information greatly augments and
improves on previous
ringing results, but quite a bit
of it does match local observations
made by skilled bird watchers.
diagram © British Trust for Ornithology
Tower Competition Winner
is the winning entry in a recent
competition held in Poland for a
Swift tower, organised by STOP,
the Warsaw bird protection organisation.
Designed by Menthol
Architects, it is intended to
provide stand-alone, well sheltered,
robust, safe and long lasting nest
places for a large number of Swifts,
as well as being an aesthetically
valid landmark in itself.
here for further information
(in Polish) Visit
details of the boxes
Menthol / STOP Swift Tower visualised
on the banks of the Vistula river
in Warsaw, just along from the Copernicus
Centre. Swifts have been having
just as bad a time in Poland as
elsewhere in Euroipe, as the old
building stock is updated and insulated,
and all their old nest places are
obliterated. Population losses in
parts of Eastern Europe are thought
to be as high as 70% in the past
few years alone. drawings
© Menthol Architects / STOP
Swift homes in Teignmouth
© Teign Housing
See the three small holes along the roofline of the
completed blocks of flats? These are a new part of Teign Housing’s
regeneration work in central Teignmouth. They are built in Swift nesting boxes.
A total of 51 new nest
places have been created,
using Schwegler's No
box fitted behind the
There is a small Swift colony nesting under the road bridge next to the blocks, and during the planning stage of the project Teign Housing
(TH), the RSPB and
Teignbridge District Council planners, advised by Edward Mayer and Stephen
Fitt of Swift Conservation, agreed to install the nest boxes
on each block so the colony could expand.
Paul Davies, Head of Asset Management said: “As a housing
association it is our responsibility to meet local housing need, and we
thought we could extend this to some of our feathered friends. Sadly,
the Swift population is in decline, but we hope
that the boxes will encourage more to nest and help increase the Swift
population in Teignmouth.”
As TH's head office is in Newton Abbot it is difficult to monitor
whether the boxes are being used. If anyone in Teignmouth spots a Swift
or any other bird moving into these boxes, please let TH know the time
and date of your Swift spot by using the online Contact Us form.
news from Exeter
gets amazing results...
Isca College Exeter; Three Schwegler
nestboxes have been fitted to the
high brick wall to encourage Swifts
to nest there. Photo
© Emily Stallworthy, Devon Wildlife
Stephen Fitt, a Swift enthusiast and a
volunteer for the RSPB in the
South West of England has been working very hard with Exeter City Council, whose official
policy is to integrate nest/roost boxes for birds/bats into all new residential
a degree of flexibility to make sure that unsuitable locations
are not used, but a ratio of one nest box per residential unit is
Within this policy, Swifts are treated as
a priority species, and the work being done by the Exeter Swift Project, a
partnership of the Council, Devon Wildlife Trust (see illustration) and the
RSPB, should make sure that there will be ample nesting opportunities for Swifts
in the foreseeable future.
better, the Town and Country Planning
Association has adopted the Exeter Model as an example within its new "Good
Practice Guidance" which
is being promoted throughout
See a special
feature on the "Good Practice
the Town & Country Planning
Association / Wildlife Trusts "Good
Practice Guidance" documents
(inc Annex C)
more information please contact
new road sign was put up last Summer
near Koblenz in the Rhineland. Swifts
fly low to catch insects when the
weather is bad, and so can come
into conflict with vehicles, something
their 49 million years on Earth
may not have prepared them for.
sign can be folded up when the Swifts
have gone back to Africa. But while
they are here they are now protected
from accidents with traffic, just
so long as drivers are careful.
hope this good idea gets copied
supplied by the Frankfurt Swift
Group: see here
for lots more information
Swifts leave Europe early?
our Swifts start leaving, a full month
before they should head South?
It seemed to be so. The Spurn Bird
Observatory, near Hull, has
been pondering the large numbers
of Swifts that passed through on their
way South. On 1st July 3000
were counted, with totals of 4000
and almost 7000 on the preceding
days, making this a most unseasonal
This matches up
with reports from Swift enthusiasts
across the UK; lower numbers, failed
breeding, loss of familiar colonies,
and lots of e-mails asking "Where
are my Swifts?".
climate change is taking the form
of wetter, cooler summers for the
UK, will our Swifts desert us for
hotter climates? We know that increased
temperatures have not affected Swift
arrival dates, but colder weather,
with a dearth of flying insect food,
cannot but have a terminal effect
out more - Visit Spurn Bird Observatory
visit the Swifts of Andalucia -
millions of them!
with the rotten "summer"
we (and our Swifts too) were having,
we felt the need for a bit of intensive
Swift therapy, and headed off to
Andalucia in Southern Spain for
guaranteed sunshine, heat, paella
We were not disappointed
- there were millions of them! Nesting
in the eaves opposite our hotel
in Malaga, right by the Cathedral,
nesting in a special roof made just
for them above the bar of our hotel
in Granada, and filling the sky
in Ubéda, they were everything we
needed. If only it could be the
same here in the UK.
our videos! Just click
on the blue logos to go to You Tube
Swifts at the Alhambra Palace
Swifts over Malaga
flying over Ubeda
The Alcazar, the ancient
Moorish castle at the Alhambra:
a landscape that is just perfect
for Swifts; sun, heat, water, insects
and hundreds of old holes to breed
Rémy, Molenbeek, Brussels
new Swift nestbox
project in Belgium - designed by
Dick Newell and project managed
by Martine Wauters of the Municipality
Swift nest box cabinets are being
fitted at the base of the long louvred
apertures in the tower of the Church
of St Rémy. All
photos © Martine Wauters - Municipality
team that installed the
boxes - helping Swifts is fun!
left: the boxes in position. More
can be added as the project takes
off and Swifts move in, and in that
way the feral pigeon population
of the tower can be reduced, and
a pest removed.
a Swift's eye-view of the prospect
from the nest. Not bad!
Swifts get 500 new nest places in Baku, Azerbaijan
Nests for the Swifts of Baku's famous 8th
Century BC Maiden Tower
Maiden Tower, a highly
important 8th Century BC national
monument in Baku's
UNESCO World Heritage Old Walled
being conserved after many
years of weather damage.
in its crumbling walls provided
nestplaces for about 250 Swifts
for the past 30 or 40 years. But
the conservation, when completed, will
leave only about 40 holes usable
by the Swifts.
the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and founder of International Dialogue for Environmental Action
(IDEA) initiated and coordinated a special project providing the displaced
with alternative nest places. A nearby site was selected, and the Administration of Icherisheher, through its specialist
Atelier Erich Pummer GesMBH, http://www.atelier-pummer.com/ installed
500 Schwegler Swift nest boxes.
The number of new nests has been doubled with the aim of
increasing the future population
of Baku's Swifts.
made after the Swifts finished breeding
in Summer 2012 showed that some
30 nests had been made in the new
boxes, a very promising start. In
2013 further efforts will be made
to attract more Swifts to breed
in the new nestboxes.
The 8th Century BC Maiden Tower,
undergoing conservation; on the
right, the new Swift nest boxes
installed on the wall of an adjacent
the video of the Swifts checking
out their new nest boxes here
Close-up showing the postions of
loudspeakers within some of the
nestboxes, used to play Swift
calls to attract the Swifts to nest
left: The Maiden Tower, centrepiece
of the ancient historical heart
of Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage
Site, following conservation works
Below left: Another
view of the new Swift Nest box
arrays in the shape of three Swifts
Photos © Samir Nuriyev
/ State Historical
Architectural Reserve "Icherisheher"
In order to smooth
the Swifts’ relocation, the
Tower’s conservation works were planned so that the number of
holes in the façade would decrease gradually during 2012 to 2013. In February 2012, the nest
fixed on the wall in the shape of three
flying Swifts, to underline the purpose of the project and to enhance the appearance of the site.
The new nestboxes were
painted light beige to reflect the sunlight and prevent overheating.
The project received support from us at Swift Conservation. We provided Swift
Call CD's to encourage the Swifts to check out the new nests, and advice on how
to attract Swifts and maintain the
colony for the future.
The process of
attracting Baku's Swifts to the new nest places
may take 2 to 3 years, but the initial results are
very promising. Just 2 weeks after the Swifts’ arrival in Baku, thanks to the use
of the Swift
Call CD, several were noticed flying up to the nest boxes and some
were captured by video camera at the moment of flying into the nestboxes.
2012 - the 2nd International Swift Seminars conference
Photos © Edward
Mayer www.swift-conservation.org Presentation
© Lukáš Viktora CSO
are getting much more attention:
2nd International Swift Seminars were
held in Berlin from 10 to 12 April,
attracting 77 delegates from Europe, Turkey,
Russia, Indonesia, Israel and China, to discuss ways to
prevent further losses of this
across Europe appears to be consistent,
and closely linked to trends in renovation
and insulation of the building stock.
from the Czech Republic (left) match
the UK's very closely.
Tigges, conference organiser, addresses
a question to Martin Cel'uch, a speaker
from the Slovakian delegation whose
topic was "Will the Common Swift
survive in Slovakia?"
puts up nestplaces for its Pallid Swifts
go the new boxes! Brand new plywood
boxes, specially for Pallid Swifts,
are lifted to their final postion by
the Fire Brigade team in Zaragoza.
© Municipality of Zaragoza
The fire station in Zaragoza,
Aragon in Spain has finally saved its famous
Pallid Swift colony
Following a public appeal, helped by us
at Swift Conservation, the Municipality
of Zaragoza agreed to save the prominent
colony of Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus)
established at the local Fire Station.
by maintenance work, the colony became
the subject of great public interest,
and a campaign to save it was organised
by Spanish Swift enthusiasts, with support
from right across Europe.
campaign was successful, and the Municipality
agreed to have the special boxes made
up and installed on their fires station.
Here you can see them being put up,
the result, and the team from the Municipality
that got the job done so successfully.
are all hoping for a very successful
breeding season for this colony in 2012
and for a long time ahead.
The multi-disciplinary team from the
Municipality of Zaragoza that designed,
built and installed the multiple nest
boxes for the Pallid Swifts at the Fire
get a helping hand from local government
my nest box ready?
Swift pops the question in Leuven
in Belgium, where local government is
backing a drive to put up more nest
boxes for Swifts.
As a result
of this enterprise, about 150 nestboxes
have been fitted so far to local buildings
by the local authorities, using the
Fire Brigade's lifting platforms to
reach high sites.
local government to emulate right across
Europe. Well we can live in hope they
will! Helping Swifts is easy and cost-effective.
Boxes cost from £13 / €15 and can be
fitted to a huge variety of buildings.
They just need to be out of the sun,
in clear airspace and 5 or more metres
© Louis-Philippe Arnhem
Peter & St Paul keep Swifts safe at their
Church in Lingfield
Giddy, local Swift expert
in Surrey, was instrumental in saving a major Swift colony in
the roof of St Peter & St Paul's Lingfield.
& Swift enthusiasts Ian & Pat Smith
were concerned the Swifts nesting under
the massive stone roof were potentially
under threat from renovations.
with the help of Richard Young of the
Church Council and Robert George, the
architect, plans were made with Roland's
help for the
colony to be saved.
Roofers Clarke Roofing Southern Ltd
performed the works, ensuring that the
old nest places were retained.
old stone tiles were removed, the nest
positions between them and the roofing
membrane were noted, and retained
under the replaced stone tiles.
result: plenty of nest places ready
for the Swifts when they return in may
left: roofers remove the old roof, revealing
debris from the old nests.
left: a view of the church & the
Top right: the new roof
goes on, using recovered stone tiles
right: just about finished!
(roof) © Ian Smith; (church) © Edward
Swifts get a Reprieve and New Homes
Froome, our man on Guernsey, has helped
save a major Swift Colony:
of the housing estate had already started
when residents spoke up for their Swifts.
With Vic's help, it was swiftly agreed
that the demolition would stop, and
the Guernsey Housing Association allowed a further
delay of six weeks to enable the Swifts
to fledge and fly off to Africa. Even
better, the Housing Association agreed
to buy 50 Swift nestboxes, and
then the building contractor J W Rihoy
up for free! Even more good news,
Vic has been asked to give a seminar
to all the property professionals involved,
on buildings and biodiversity, and he
has also been asked to advise on stage
two of the project. You couldn't ask
for any more!
Swifts' nests found under the tiles
of the old housing estate demolished
to be replaced by the new one (right).
You can see the four new nestboxes
just under the eaves.
right, Vic, his work and the estate
featured in the Guernsey Times, a great
victory for common sense local conservation
and for the Swifts too.
© Vic Froome
Ealing and Niblock get it right first time... with
a little help from Beth!
© Beth Hales
Niblock Building Contractors roofer
cuts a hole for Swifts to continue nesting
in eaves at the Village Park Estate
in Ealing. This hole is a special one
to resist entry by Starlings but let
the Swifts get back to the same nest
sites they used before the old wooden
soffits were replaced with the modern
Upvc ones. You can contact Niblock here.
only nest in pre-1944 buildings. But
modernisation of these
has lead to a massive drop in their numbers. Swifts create a sense of well-being and
eat up lots of harmful insects. They
are well worth saving!
Beth Hales, of the Village Park Estate in South Ealing, tells
us how she saved the Swifts on her
We had been given notice that our roofs would be repaired under the Decent Homes
As I stood chatting with site manager Mark Lenzi, of
contractor Niblock, I looked up and noticed the
Swifts. I asked: “what will happen to the Swifts as they nest in the
eaves”. Mark was sympathetic, but had no power to change
the plastic soffits that would close the eaves. I decided not to let the issue go that
easily, as I had spent the
last 18 summers enjoying watching them.
I got in touch with local
RSPB member Peter Bird and the author of the Birds of Ealing, John Green.
Together with resident Gary Fisher we wrote to the leader of the Council. At
the same time the Swifts were becoming a topic in local Council and wildlife
meetings. Within days the Council was talking to the building contractor.
With the Council on board, Mark Lenzi agreed my suggestion to bring
in Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation, who advise architects and
builders on how to keep or encourage Swifts to nest.
So I found myself squeezed into a metal
portacabin along with 17 roofers to hear a presentation on Swifts. I wasn’t sure
if they would take it seriously but as Edward began they quickly became engaged
and the talk moved on to the technical details.
The result? Niblock installed 70 Swift holes and two summers on it goes to show how an
action as simple as cutting a small hole can have such a dramatic impact on
local wildlife. The Swifts are still with us!
Nice Swift Story
|SWIFTS by Abbie Hart aged 6 years and 1
Once there was 2 poorly swifts and then my Mum saved them and made them
better. She let them go, but one of them couldn't fly. And then she made it
better and she let it go. They ate lots of insects and waxworms. They were
happy. They played with their friends in the sky and they flew past every day,
so we knew they were better. But they went to Africa for the winter where it was
warm. All the time they were thinking about us. They wished they could have more
waxworms. They were too happy now. They will come back in April or May. We will
be happy when we see them again. And, if they come back in May on my Mum's
birthday, they might be happy. And, they are good at flying now - they used to
not be. And it's good to fly, because everyone wants to fly. They fly even when
they are asleep and eat little bugs in the air. I love the Swifts so much, they
will come back soon because it's nearly Spring. It's good when it's Spring. The
Swifts are always happy, they love it. They just love drinking and they are
black. They love us and my Dad is making a nest box for them. My Mum says that
they are her favourite bird, but they're just my second favourite. My favourites
are Long-Tailed Tits and Sparrows and the beautiful Swifts. Drawings
© Abbie Hart
Swifts still nest in ancient trees..... the Bialowieza
Primeval Forest, Poland
2011 we visited the magnificent Bialowieza
Primeval Forest in North East Poland.
What a superb place!
a surprise too as this ancient forest,
where trees are allowed to die and fall
and rot naturally, has a resident population
of nesting Swifts. In 1985 to 1994 this
was estimated as 600 to 700 pairs. These
Swifts nest mainly in holes in
Hornbeams and sometimes Conifers on
open flood plain areas.
breed in groups of a couple of pairs,
quite unlike the large colonies
they set up in big buildings, but
similar to a typical suburban Swift colony.
think that this is how Swifts bred before
we deforested Europe and eliminated
all old and dead trees from our modern
managed forests. Of course, Swifts
nest in crevices in cliffs too, but
we have never seen large colonies in
soon - such beauty cannot last.
Swifts' nest in an old Great Spotted
Woodpecker nest in this ancient
pine. This is at the
RSPB's Abernethy Reserve in Scotland
where a few
Swifts breed in tree holes, believed
to be unique in the UK.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation (left)
John S Wilson (right)
National Archives hopes to host Swifts at Kew with
its new nest boxes
National Archives at Kew have installed
some Swift nest boxes!
are the brainchild of Christine
Berry, a keen wildlife enthusiast
who works there. Christine contacted
us and we did a site survey. We
recommended locations and techniques
to attract the Swifts to them.
right by the Thames the site is
ideal; it already hosts a good selection
of wild birds and other creatures,
and has pools and gardens of its
own to shelter them.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation &
Christine Berry / National Archives
puts up Swift Boxes on its Tower Hide at the London
should love these nest boxes built
beneath the eaves of the Tower Hide
at the London Wetlands Centre just
across the Thames from Hammersmith.
pools of the Wetlands Centre provide
masses of flying insects for
Swifts to feed on, and many Swifts
already visit the Centre just to
the left you can see two of the nest
boxes fitted to the Tower Hide; on the
right you can see, open, the CD player
system that plays Swift calls to attract
new birds to look for vacant spaces.
& Wetlands Trust
get a Tower at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover
we see Terry and his team mate Ray
the shingles onto the second tower
on the production line.The first
tower, set up with help from HM
Forces, is on the far right. In
between is Cheyenne, one of their
superb Bald Eagles, after her long
range flight display.
Photos © E
Mayer / Swift Conservation
at the Hawk Conservancy Trust at
Andover in Hampshire have taken
up the challenge of making and erecting
one of the Swift Tower concept designs
prepared by Dick Newell of the Ely
Swifts Group and featured elsewhere
on this web site.
by one of our lectures, they devoted
their time and effort to making
this superb structure which holds
30 nest places under a roof covered
in Western Red Cedar shingles.
Conservancy to see the Tower
and lots more - their flight displays
of raptors are just amazing!
Park's Buildings are fitted with Swift nestboxes
Park's Friends have made a big commitment
to Swift conservation by fitting
one of the buildings in Dulwich
Park with Swift nest boxes and an
associated hifi system to play Swift
calls to lure the birds in. Seven boxes were
installed; six Schwegler No.18's (plus the hi-fi system) and one Filchris
nestbox. Southwark's Parks department
arranged for the installation.
Photos © Steven
Puts up a Swift Tower in Crumlin, Northern
Brian Cahalane, a member of the Northern Ireland Swift Group wrote
to Sir Terence Leahy, CEO of Tesco Plc, and explained to him why Swift numbers
were falling through out the British Isles and asked if Tesco could help.
Sir Terence replied sympathetically
discussions began resulting in this magnificent tower.
The Northern Ireland Swift Group wishes to express their appreciation to
Tesco Plc. who funded the project. Thanks
to their awareness of the biodiversity in the area, Swifts in Northern
Ireland now have twenty new nest boxes which will help their numbers increase
A plaque will be placed below the tower explaining its purpose and
giving information on this magnificent bird, Already it has been visited by
school children from the local schools.
is hoped that Tesco's example will encourage other supermarkets to
follow their lead.
Photos © Brian
Bethlehem Church gets Swift Nest Boxes!
Schulz, a Swift Activist in Hannover,
Germany, has been running Swift
projects for some years now.
is her latest, fitting 24 nestboxes
to the Bethlehem Church, with the
help of a large team of helpers,
some shown here.
do the same! With a little help
from your friends and some recycled
plywood you can build boxes for
Swifts and install them in your
not a minute to be lost.......
Photos © Rose-Marie Schulz
Lister Hospital & the London Olympics get Swift Nest
& Middlesex Wildlife Trust, working
with the Lister Hospital Board and Osborne
Construction, have completed installation
of eight Swift nest bricks in the new
maternity unit at this hospital in Stevenage.
is this sort of thoughtful planning
that is going to save Swifts here in
the UK, as inaccessible new buildings replace
their old homes in open timber eaves
We can ensure them
a future only by building in special features
where Swifts can breed.
But it's easy
and it's cheap too!
Photos © Tim
worked with the London Olympics
2012 project startimg in 2004, with
the aim of providing nest
site location advice and training as
part of their commitment to biodiversity.
eventually got 70 + Swift nestboxes
intsalled at various places on the site.
Here you can see an
installation of six nestboxes under
one of the bridges leading to
the Olympics Stadium.
Photos © E
Mayer Swift Conservation
Swift nest place projects, old and new, from Belgium
Pole Holes = Swift Nests!
in Brussels have adapted to use a feature of
Belgian architecture. Round
(or square) holes were placed under the eaves of older
buildings, to provide ready-made locations
for the timber scaffold poles used whenever
the building needed
were often covered with a decorative
feature. On the left you can see one,
a carved stone plug in the shape of
a lion's head. With the plug slightly
open, access is provided for a Swift
to nest inside. On the right you
can see a line of these holes; some
were converted to Swift nest places,
two are still plugged, two
have lost their plugs.
longer in use for scaffolding, they are in peril of
being lost when repairs are made. So
Belgian biodiversity activists and professionals
are encouraging their conversion to
nest places for Swifts, House Sparrows and
Black Redstarts. With some success!
- Photos © Jean-Claude Hardy
© Aline Spriet
nestholes a-plenty in Melegnano!
St. John the The Baptist's Church in Melegnano, a small town very close to
Milan, where all the old scaffold holes in the walls of the bell tower were
modified to provide nest places for Swifts.
These holes are an integral
part of historic structures, and were
used to support timber scaffold beams.
You can see how they have been made
smaller with little pieces of brick,
cemented in. This gives a permanent,
safe, low-cost refuge for breeding Swifts,
while excluding feral pigeons.
concerned with this project is hopeful
that this idea will catch on across
the whole of Italy, and also in other
Mediterranean countries where these
scaffold holes are still commonplace.
Photos © Arch. Gaetano Arricobene
Advice & Design: Mauro Ferri of
Veterinary Service / Local Health Agency of Modena, and Luca Ravizza, Municipality of Melegnano
Client: The Parish of Melegnano
s.r.l. (Gallarate, VA),
Project Manager: Arch. G. Arricobene
colony's nest holes can be seen under
the eaves and also under the window
to the right of and just below the tower.
get a Good Deal in Cortona, Italy
Swift enthusiast who is
setting up her own colony at home
in the UK, has sent us these pictures
of a D I Y Swift colony she spotted
on her travels in Italy.
"When I was in Cortona, Tuscany, a couple of years ago, I saw purpose-built Swift nest holes in houses. As a result there was a huge colony of Swifts.
They used to wheel over the high point of the hill town, screaming. Fantastic."
Colonies are easy to create when renovating
a building. The holes can be drilled
with minimal vibration and mess from
outside using a diamond core drill .
Nestplaces or boxes can then be
created in or on the interior walls.
have the nest boxes totally
hidden within the wall, as shown on
the right. The holes may be used during
winter by other species as roosts.
Tits, Wrens and Sparrows may seek shelter
and manage to survive in this way.
projects can help to replace Swift nests
lost in other building re-developments,
& vital if Swifts are to survive!
New nests for Swifts in Modena,
an exceptionally beautiful city,
has a wealth of ancient historic buildings
of supreme cultural value. Amongst these
is the Cathedral and its Tower.
Municipality, advised by specialists
of the Veterinary Service of the local
Public Health Agency, made plans to
retain the Swifts nesting in the scaffold
pole holes of the magnificent Cathedral
Tower. A major aim was to exclude feral
pigeons, whilst encouraging Swifts and
Bats to roost and nest.
the left you can see the Cathedral and,
far right in the photo, covered in hoardings,
its Tower. On the right you can see
the technique used to convert the scaffold
pole holes from places that could shelter
feral pigeons to ones that can provide
nests for Swifts. All that is required
is again the insertion of a piece of brick,
but cut to the right size.
cheap, effective! So why doesn't everyone
More Swift Houses in Grottammare,
Jarvis, who lives in Grottamare, Italy, spotted
Swifts around a house by the railway
tracks. Here is what she saw! Some
brilliant person adapted this building
for Swifts. We know of lots of Swift
Towers in North East Italy, but this
is the first such site we have seen
in the Appennines. Are there more? Find
out and tell us!
What do Swifts eat? Mostly
Midges and Aphids
and Aphids make up almost half the items
by Swifts for their young
in Antrim, Northern Ireland
- Chironomid Midge
Bottom - Aphid giving birth
part of continuing research into Swifts'
diets, amateur naturalist Marian James examined 10 pellets excreted
by the juvenile Swifts in Mark Smyth's colony
in Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The results were as follows: There were in total 897 items or identifiable
Chironomids 25.7% - non biting midges (possibly Lough Neagh fly)
Psyllids 11.6% - sap
Lonchoptera 11.5% - small spear-winged flies
11.1% - water beetles
Phoridae 0.8% - hump-backed flies (resembling fruit
Sciaridae 0.7% - fungus gnats
Dolichopodidae 0.4% - long-legged
Muscids / Calliphorids 0.4% - house & stable flies / blow
Scathophagidae 0.3% - dung flies
Hemiptera 2.1% - bugs
0.1% - craneflies
with traces of
Hymenoptera - small solitary wasps
Coccinellidae - 11
The majority of catches was of very small, weak
fliers which become wafted by air currents and cannot escape. There was
also evidence of spiders, presumably caught at their dispersal or "ballooning"
can see that in Antrim, Swifts are catching a
wide range of flying insects for their
chicks, but that the biggest percentage
is of midges hatching from the local
lake. Marian James is
conducting further research using pellets
from juveniles in Swift colonies in Italy and Germany.
If you are interested in participating,
and have a supply of Swift pellets from chicks
a specific identified colony, you may contact
her by clicking here.
and New! Swift nestboxes for traditional house eaves
Giddy has converted his eaves to house
4 pairs of nesting Swifts - he used a scaffold to access the eaves, and
boxed them in with integral
platforms (see right).
right - the result - a neat and sound home
for the Swifts, fitting in nicely with the
This sort of conversion to
provide nest places for Swifts replaces
during re-roofing. It's low-tech,
low-cost, easy, long lasting and effective.
If eveyone did this when they renovated
their house then Swifts wouldn't have lost
half their UK population in the past 20
© Roland Giddy
Swift Colonies set up in M'dina, Malta
a cessation of the infamous Spring
Shooting Season in Malta in 2009 (it has been reinstated
this year) Swifts bred in M'dina.
Mario Gauci discovered their nest, (below).
Swift flies over M'dina, Malta - not normally
best place to be a wild bird!
© Mario V Gauci
to assist Swifts, Mario started a nest place
project - a series of Swift nestboxes fitted
into old ventilators on a building facade.
As you can see, the Swifts are already interested!
Council builds for Swifts
Council has installed 10 nest boxes at
their Regent's Park Estate to help reverse a decline in Swift populations.
"One of the reasons for the decline is modern construction practices which
render once-accessible nesting sites under roof eaves inaccessible. The installation of Swift nesting boxes in high-rise buildings is seen as one
way to counter-act this problem, providing suitable nesting sites for this
fascinating bird. In Camden, local surveys have established the Regent’s Park area as a
population stronghold. Using the opportunity we combined our high-rise
insulation programme on the estate with the installation of these specially
Camden tell us that more installations are planned
throughout the Borough. This is splendid news and we
hope this project will be a trend-setter throughout
the UK and in the EU too. Click here
to visit their web site for more details.
© London Borough of Camden
get more new homes in Northern Ireland
new Municipal Library in Antrim built this year has
been fitted with Ibstock Swift Bricks - the result of
excellent co-operation between the Librarian, Mark Smyth
of the Northern Ireland Swift group and local enthusiasts.
The generous and handsome installation ensures the survival
of a good sized colony of Swifts, a bird that previously
flourished in the area, due in part to the presence
of the Lough Neagh Fly, an insect that breeds copiously in
the left is the wall with the Ibstock Swift
nest Bricks inserted in the upper areas,
enlarged and more visible in the photo on
Ibstock Swift Bricks are
made in the UK from recycled materials and clay, in avariety of sizes and colours,
and can be integrated with several brick
You can buy them via our
enthusiasts Norman Watterson and Adrian McElhone have been working
on a new Swift nestbox scheme at a modern industrial
building on the shores of fly-rich Lough Neagh, in Northern
Ireland. Swifts gather from miles around to feast on
the Lough Neagh flies. The new one-piece nest box has 12 separate compartments
for the Swifts; their food supply can be seen waiting
the left you can see the 12 place nest box
before it was fitted to the roof edge of
the Ballyronan Marina facilities building (right).
myriad black specks visible are the famous
Lough Neagh flies, which hatch from the
waters to provide food for thousands of
is believed that Swifts fly in from as far
away as Scotland to feed on this amazing
Homes for Swifts in East Dulwich, London
Victorian terraced house has been ingeniously renovated
to provide excellent accommodation for Swifts. The
arrow points to one of eleven Swift nest access holes,
built in to the under-eaves brickwork. This
is the creation of George Mavrias, who as you can imagine,
is keen on keeping Swifts flying over his home! It goes
to show that where there's a will there's a way, and
Swift nestplaces can be created and sustained in nearly
all types of buildings.
for Swift Attraction Calls CD
Cahalane of Northern Ireland set up his own Swift colony
used a Swift Calls CD to
attract the birds to a previously unused nesting area.
This is how he did it - you can do it too! Photo © Edward
"It is usually relatively easy to attract Swifts
to new nesting boxes by using a calls CD. Play the CD on a CD player
linked to a separate amplifier, use cheap speaker cable and as many speakers
as possible, each one right beside a nest box. I often have twelve speakers
going at once. I bought the cheapest and
smallest speakers you can buy. Play from late April onwards, continuously from dawn to
darkness as loud as you dare, and you will
attract Swifts. But it may take two seasons for them to nest. I have been able to attract Swifts from a half mile away
and more. I conducted a simple experiment using my wife and son
and mobile phones. One was positioned at the house,
other a quarter of a mile away, and myself a half mile away.
It's almost a straight line from my house to the centre of the village.
A phone call from myself and the CD was switched on at my house at full volume,
I could hear it in the village. Swifts began to move towards my
house and I could observe them through my binoculars, when they passed my wife she rang me, and when they arrived at the house my son rang me.
I have 24 potential nesting sites and often have as many as ten speakers playing at once,
positioned at ten boxes. I now have a colony established!"
Conservation supplies a Swift Calls CD using recordings from Ulrich Tigges' Berlin Swift Colony. To
order click on the Swift button below.
Order a Swift Calls CD - click on the Swift!
Click on the Swift
to learn how to use the Swift Calls CD
For further information contact
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Thank you for your interest - Please help Swifts