Swift Awareness – Swift Awareness Week

In February 2022 we enjoyed an online talk by Edward Mayer (Swift Conservation) titled Swifts – The Birds You Can Help. Our own recording of the talk was time-limited and has long expired, but similar content is available on YouTube e.g. here

This was a really positive talk- unlike some other long-distance migrants, we can directly help these birds that summer in our towns and cities by providing them with holes for nesting and a natural food source of abundant insect life.
But their chosen nest sites are often unknown and, as a result, unprotected. As a result, “natural” nest sites in non-natural structures are being quietly lost one by one, during and outside of the swifts’ breeding season. In time, will every roof be repaired? Every hole be blocked? Other roofs and buildings may fall into disrepair, but it is too much to hope that these will be in the right places just when they are needed.

So things seem a bit more bleak. There will be no end to development, and it is not currently sympathetic to the needs of wildlife.

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The presence of nesting birds can generally only delay development, not prevent it

RSPB NI Protecting Birds from Development leaflet, 2016

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Results from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey show that for every 100 Swifts in the UK in 1994, there are now just over 33 birds (2022 season- see here). Similar figures for Northern Ireland are not available, but the BTO BirdTrack local reporting rate for recent years does appear to be less than the historical reporting rate, which is the average of all years prior to the year chosen- see for example years 2022, 2021, 2019

Swift Mapper

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By using Swift Mapper, you’ll help locate breeding hotspots for swifts and protect their homes

RSPB Take Part in Swift Mapper July 2023

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  • “All records will be available to anyone interested in swifts and their conservation; local authority planners, architects, ecologists, developers, conservation groups and individuals who want to help their local swifts” Anyone can view the map which shows
    • where Swift screaming parties have been seen
    • locations of provided nest boxes/cavities
    • locations of active nests
    • and previously active nest sites that are thought to have been lost.
  • “The system is designed as a ‘self-help’ conservation mapping tool…”

This Swift Awareness week, and for the rest of July, if you see a Swift entering a building, count yourself fortunate to have spotted it and please do report it using the Swift Mapper app. Do this to show that these birds are still here and still valued. Then try to figure out how you can use the cumulative information to help secure their future. As long as there are disinterested homeowners, local authority planners, architects, ecologists and developers, we must try to persuade them to act sympathetically towards Swifts and the other species that nest in our buildings.

Parliamentary Debate 10th July

At the end of this Swift Awareness Week, on July 10th, Parliament will debate Hannah Bourne-Taylors’s successful petition to make Swift bricks compulsory in new housing. You can watch the debate live or after the event on the UK Parliament’s YouTube channel.