Swifts need your help and helping swifts can get maintenance jobs done!


May, June, July and August are good months to think about swifts. Swifts spend most of their lives on the wing, covering huge distances in a migration from their breeding sites to central and southern Africa, but for 4 brief months they can be seen and heard in our skies as they make or renew pair bonds, find breeding holes and crevices and rear their young ready for an August departure.

Swifts need nesting holes and, as our buildings become more weather-proof and energy efficient they are struggling to find suitable sites. They will try to reuse the same breeding site each year and may not breed if a site has become blocked or lost. As swifts are only here for a short time there is a real danger that their nesting holes can be lost during building works carried out in their absence so, in order to help swifts you can….


  swift David Moreton

Photo copyright David Moreton

 1          Make a note of any signs of breeding swifts that you see. Are swifts to be seen flying into holes in roofs, church towers or eaves? If so, get in contact with CfGA, Swift Conservation or the RSPB. An easy way to identify and record swifts is to use the Swift Conservation website (swift-conservation.org). This takes you to a national survey being run by the RSPB with a simple recording form including a soundtrack of the characteristic screaming call to help with identification. These records are passed onto local authorities to help prevent the inadvertent destruction of nest sites.  

 2 Swifts on nest Eric Kaiser
Photo copyright Eric Kaiser


2          Put up nest boxes. Swifts do not breed for the first couple of years of their lives but they are on the look out for suitable nest holes. They are more likely to use a nest hole near to other breeding swifts but can be persuaded to start a new colony if they hear swift calls in the area. Installing sound equipment to play swift calls can get a new swift colony going.

Putting up a swift nesting box on the inside of tower windows or louvres not only helps this amazing bird but can also get a maintenance job sorted out!


 Swift nest boxes in church by Richard Oxley

Photo copyright Richard Oxley



 church of sacred heart Reading Edward Mayer

Photo copyright Edward Mayer


 Swift nest boxes in churches - Richard Oxley

 Photo copyright Richard Oxley 


This work is not particularly costly and there is a good chance that you can reduce costs or find grant aid or donors to help, particularly if you can involve your local community in learning about swifts.

Many people enjoy hearing and seeing swifts and so getting practical or financial help can be quite easy. Local donors such as the Rotary, Round Table or Lions may offer financial support, also national funders such as the Heritage Lottery Fund or the Esme Fairburn Trust. The Fire Service and Local Authority often have suitable equipment to tackle a high-up job and may be able to help for free or for a reduced fee, particularly if there is an opportunity for publicity.

If you are interested in helping swifts then get in touch with either Harriet Carty at Caring for God’s Acre or else go direct to Swift Conservation. Swift Conservation have a wealth of experience in working on buildings, including listed ones, and finding practical ways to maintain and renovate buildings whilst accommodating this iconic bird.






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