Swifts are in Trouble – They Need our Help!

The Common Swift is one of our iconic migratory visitors, coming from the insect rich skies over the African Congo to breed in the UK but numbers are declining. Help us to find out where they are nesting this summer!

Swifts like to breed in colonies under the eaves of older style buildings where convenient niches exist. They like the canyon effect of towns and cities and can be seen from early mid-May to mid-August before returning to Africa. They sleep on the wing at a great height; can live for 20+ years of age, form faithful pairs, like to nest in colonies and return to precisely the same nesting niche each year.

Essex Wildlife Trust is working in partnership with the ‘Essex Birdwatching Society’ to help counter the decline of the breeding UK Swift population. The RSPB have estimated that it has declined by 50% since 1995. One crucial reason why this is happening is that the older style buildings, where Swifts like to nest under the eaves, are being blocked off by the addition of soffit and fascia boards during renovation building work. Other old structures, where Swifts colonies have flourished for many years, are being demolished and replaced by buildings that are totally sealed and do not offer nesting opportunities.

We are compiling a map of where Swifts are breeding in Essex. Where there are Swift ‘screaming’ parties flying low over the rooftops and up and down local streets is a sure indication that they are breeding nearby. This is where the voluntary sector can help a great deal. This information will help enormously as to where it is useful to install Swift nest boxes on existing properties and install swift boxes in the walls of New Builds to create new opportunities for this iconic bird.


Swift. Photo: Andrew Moreton