Bird of the Week: Swift

Monday, 18 February 2019,
By Caroline Offord
Photographs By Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

It’s winter in the UK – and the swifts that fly here in summer are thousands of miles away in central and southern Africa. But it's right now that swifts need your help. 

The UK lost around half its swifts between 1995 and 2014. One of the biggest challenges for these high flyers is the loss of their nesting places. Swifts nest on holes: originally they would have found these in caves or ancient trees, but as human dwellings began to replace those traditional sites, they adapted to nest in the eaves of buildings. However modern buildings just don’t have the nooks and crannies for them to raise their chicks.

 

Swifts are in need of nest boxes to assist their breeding here in the UK. While they are currently far away, now is the time to do the legwork.
Photograph by Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

The RSPB is calling on the public to help give swifts a warm welcome this year by creating as many new swift homes as possible. You can purchase swift boxes from the RSPB online shop. Alternatively, if you’re having a new building constructed or renovations made to existing home or workplace you can add a ‘swift brick’. These fit neatly inside the wall cavity, with space inside for the birds to nest.

Who wouldn’t want these birds as neighbours? They are truly incredible. Evolved for a life in the skies and only ever land when they nest: they eat, drink, bathe and mate on the wing. They are the fastest bird in level flight – only beaten by the famous stoop of a peregrine when catching its prey.

In addition, swifts only spend around 12 weeks in the UK, don’t leave any mess on your house and gobble up biting insects which might bother you in the garden. So let’s roll out the red carpet and welcome them back with a new home or two!

Find out how to help swifts here.

 

The stirring sight of swifts overhead.
Photograph by Ben Andrew, RSPB Images
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