Swift response

Swift response

Swift release2 by Paul Wyer

In Swift Awareness Week an event at Trumpington Meadows celebrated a newly installed swift box, plus the joyful release of a swift recently recovered from injury

As with many species, swifts are declining - their population halving every 20 years; these wonderful aerial acrobats return each year, arriving in May having travelled all the way from over wintering grounds in Africa. They often nest in houses, returning to the same place each year - the nests aren't always easy to spot as they use spaces under tiles or eaves and don't leave a mess below their nest.

To celebrate the bird and highlight their decline, the UK's first Swift Awareness Week (the first country in the world to dedicate a national week in support of swifts) hopes to bring a focus to their plight, and provide information on how to help them. Trumpington Meadows' Something in the Air event on Tuesday 19 June marked the installation of a 9-nest swift box on the side of the office building, installed by Dick Newell of Action for Swifts - and local animal rehabilitator, Deborah Lauterpacht, brought along a recently recovered swift to release.

The event was well attended, Dick Newell gave a talk about swifts and before walking the meadows, an injured swift nursed back to recovery in recent weeks, was released. Careful rehabilitation by Deborah had been successful - when first found the injured female had a fine puncture wound in one wing and had somehow become soaked in cooking oil; she was still and didn't open her eyes. The oil was carefully cleaned from her feathers, her eyes washed with sterile saline and during the first week she had extra fluids to help with any ingested toxins. She then completed a course of antibiotics to address any infection from the wound to her wing. Gradually her strength returned, she gained weight and full movement of the wing and, within three weeks of her grounding, was able to return to the sky on Tuesday evening.

Make a record –

When you find a colony where swifts are flying low at roof height, do a rough count of the birds and record this at: https://swiftsurvey.org/Rspb/Home/Index

If you are lucky enough to see where swifts are swooping into a building to nest, log this on the swift survey.


Our Bedfordshire team are also recording data so do send sightings to them at Bedfordshire@wildlifebcn.org.

You might also like to let the Bedfordshire Swift group know where you see swifts by emailing: graham@gcbellamy.plus.com

Knowing where swifts are nesting, we can help to protect them by giving advice and keeping an eye out for any building repair or renovation work.


What can you do?

Tell everyone about swifts and how wonderful they are.

If buildings are renovated, encourage owners to leave the access holes where the old ones used to be.

Alternatively, new sites can be made with internal nest spaces and special swift bricks.

If no internal spaces can be left or made, swift nest boxes can be put up.

Nest boxes should ideally be at least 4 metres high up on a building and defended from strong sunlight. Swifts also need a clear flyway into nest holes.

If you would like advice or help in putting up a swift nest box, you can contact the Bedfordshire swift group by emailing: bobhook864@btinternet.com


Amazing swift facts

A pair of swifts may gather 20,000 aphids, midges and other insects in a single day to feed to their young.

Swifts fly around 500 miles each day.

They spend the winter in southern Africa, a round trip of c.14,000 miles.

Able to reach a speed of 67.5 mph, they are the fastest recorded bird in level flight.