Opportunities
There are plenty of opportunities to save existing nest sites and create new ones
Once you get your eye in, you start seeing potential swift nest sites on nearly every building;

though there are some modern buildings which offer severe challenges.
If the easy options which exist were to be exploited wholesale, then we could be confident that there would be a net gain in swift nest sites.

Nearly all the examples of good practice which make up this section of the web-site are due to the enthusiasm and commitment of individuals working on their own. It has been most rewarding to discover how many swift lovers there are out there, getting on with it, not waiting for this agreement and that agreement and this form to be filled in and that list to be completed. It has also been something of a revelation to discover that, almost without exception, architects and contractors have gone out of their way to assist and invent.
However the pace of repair, renovation, demolition and rebuilding which is being carried on with no provision for swifts is such that unless local authorities and conservation organisations start being actively concerned with swift nest site conservation, we may see a serious decline in swift populations in the coming years.
It is hoped that this section of the web-site will grow until there is a simple design detail which can be copied available for every style of renovation or new building.

Nothing happens without people DOING it. Thinking about it or writing it down might be a first step, but
"act from thought should swiftly follow,
or what is thinking for"
so aptly wrote W.H. Auden

There are six main categories of opportunity:-
The most important is:-
A LEAVE IT ALONE
followed by:-
B MAKE NEW HOLES TO RETAIN ACCESS TO EXISTING NEST SITES
C USE INTERNAL SPACES TO CREATE NEW NEST SITES
D CREATE NEW NEST SITES USING THE EXISTING DESIGN DETAILS
E CREATE NEW INTERNAL SPACES
as a last resort only:-
F USE EXTERNALLY-FITTED NEST BOXES
The aim of Swift Solutions must be to be:-
simple, as nearly cost-free as possible, repeatable,
sustainable, appropriate, unobtrusive
A. Leave it alone.
(i.e. retain existing nest sites and existing access to them). This applies of course to existing nest sites in existing buildings which may be historic buildings or recent buildings. If you know or believe swifts are nesting, do not block off possible entrances after the beginning of May – if work is unavoidable during the summer months, make sure the entrances are blocked off before that time. (See legal protection for swift’s nests). Mark for retention holes which you believe could be possible access points for swifts. e.g. if you must repoint stonework at eaves level, keep some suitable holes unpointed.
When Stanley Mills was being repaired, it was agreed with Historic Scotland that swifts should be taken into consideration during conversion of the old buildings. Their Architects, Law & Dunbar Nasmith in Edinburgh came to the conclusion that the best solution was to leave the top course of stone work alone, and there would be no detriment to the building as the top course is protected by the guttering.
When this milecastle on the Roman Wall was being repaired for English Heritage, one of the stonemasons working for the contractor, Historic Building Services luckily happened to be a swift expert. There was a good resident swift colony there which might otherwise have been lost. Swift nest holes were marked and retained successfully.
When renovation work was undertaken for the National Trust for Scotland property at Culzean Castle, the manager, Gordon Riddle persuaded them to leave some of the swift nest sites in the walls.
Some of the housing renovation work in Glasgow has not involved the cladding of soffits, thus leaving the existing gaps and spaces. Photo – Calvay Co-op Housing where swifts may still be nesting after renovation. (Spot the swift in the photo)
New flashing was cut off at each side of this down pipe, in order not to block the entrance to a known swift nest site. Client: Milnbank H. A., Architect: E. Kerr, Contractor: JMC
If new faschia boards are placed far enough out from the wall to leave a gap of min. 25mm between the board and the wall, swifts will still be able to gain access. Photo Tollcross nest sites. There are three entrances here.
If new faschia boards are placed so that at least some parts of the wallhead are below them (min 25mm) swifts will still be able to gain access. Photo Roebank street. (as above)
Where new flashing is used, mark suitable holes and omit bitumen there, pull flashing up away from the wall to expose the hole.
Make new holes to retain access to existing nest sites.
Note that it is important to make new access holes in the same place as the old ones if possible – swifts seem to be a bit myopic when it comes to locating a new front door!
Cut holes in new faschia boards to allow continued access to wall head. Photo Roebank street. (as above)
Cut slots in new soffit cladding Photo:- a swift colony in this housing scheme in Bedford was only saved by the action of local resident, Jane Kelly, who persuaded the contractor to cut slots in new pvc. Had she not been aware if the problem, there would be no more swifts here – as it is the swifts have taken readily to the pvc boxed soffits.
In Amsterdam ventilation grids have been removed from these new soffits to allow access to swifts.
Where swifts are nesting under pantiles, it is possible to install specially made tiles when the old tiles are replaced. (If the job involves complete reproofing, then this will probably not be sufficient). Photo - special swift Marley tiles on new roof in Amsterdam.
New stonework could be cut to retain access to wallhead. This solution was discussed for Stanley Mills, but the leave-it-alone option was chosen.
Use internal spaces to create new nest sites.
The easiest and most obvious example is the potential use of boxed soffits to create nest sites. There are miles and miles of boxed soffit being constructed in new housing estates, and miles and miles of potential swift nest sites out there.
Hole cut in boxed soffit. – there is a piece of plywood across the soffit space at c. 350mm from the end to enclose the space. Private development in Glasgow.
There is the potential for many nest sites here.
There is the potential for many nest sites here.
Clyde Valley Housing association agreed to the creation of nest sites in the gable ends of these boxed soffits. This simple solution consists of cutting a hole 25-30mm high x 65mm wide in the end piece and inserting a piece of plywood to ensure that nothing can wander off down the inside of the soffit. Architects: ARM, Contractor: Kelvin Homes
Glasgow City Council Architect's department designed this gable end nest box.
However, the contractors, Carillion Contracts decided on the neater solution of allowing access to the void by means of a 30mm x 68mm hole.
A project looking for a home. There is potential here to create swift nest sites by simply cutting out one section of the grid covering this ventilation space – it should not be all the ventilation spaces – one or two per building would do fine.
Norwich City Council have used this detail in properties where there are swift colonies.
Create new nest sites using ………… design details.
It was agreed that it would be possible to box in the spaces created by exposed outriggers in the gable ends. Client:- Thenew Housing Association, Architect:- Fraser Brown Newman, Contractor:- J.B. Bennet .
At Cranhill it was proposed to box in this eaves detail - which would have made perfect unobtrusive nest spaces in a place that swifts seem to prefer on the gable end.
Create new internal spaces.
New Holes
At Thirlwell Castle, new holes were created for swifts as well as retaining the existing ones during the renovation. Yes, of course they will do fine for bats too.
Typical construction for swift hole in stone wall constructed from random rubble and facing stone. Client:- English Heritage, Design & Construction:- Raymond Craig of Historic Building Services, Northumberland.
Swift Bricks
In Sussex, Graham Roberts has had swift bricks installed in Horsham Library and other sites. The Client:- West Sussex County Council, Architect:- Hunter & Partners. The bricks, which cost £25 - £35 each plus installation were paid for by the client.
Construction Detail not yet available.
Swift bricks are built into new walls, and either rendered to the face or placed behind facing bricks.
Dutch Construction Detail.
The problem with the swift bricks is that they are expensive, heavy to transport and handle and do not correspond to British standard sizes.
Church (or other) Tower Boxes.
Church towers with louvers lend themselves to internal boxed spaces. These boxes were designed and installed by Bill Murrels in Ely. Photo - Bill Munrels
Construction details for louvre boxes.
Internal Boxes.
For those who do not wish to allow swifts free access to their roof space, it is possible to install boxes in the roof with a clear access to the outside world.
Externally Fitted Nest Boxes.
This option should be a last resort unless there is a particular reason to use them. They are more suitable for private houses than for public buildings because of the long-term maintenance implications – but even then, new house owners may just take them down. They are useful for educational purposes as it easier to see them, or for publicity – but there is always the danger that people will assume that a nest box is the answer to wildlife conservation. Providing access to holes in buildings is far more sustainable, cheaper and less dependant on control by people.
One of the oldest and best known examples of a nest-box colony is at the Hirsel in Coldstream, Scottish borders. These boxes were put up by Major John Douglas Hume “the Birdman” in 1950 and are now monitored by SNH. They were renewed in 1996.
Construction detail of Hirsel boxes. The overhang was added to deter sparrows and starlings.
A simplified version of the Hirsel boxes was installed on Cannonmills school in Edinburghin 1997. Boxes were made up by SWT training team and installed renovation works. Historic Scotland required that brass screws be used.
Construction detail of the box – the sloping roof is probably a good idea where the boxes are to be placed on an open wall.
The basic shoebox nest box is the cheapest, easiest to make and least intrusive. This is widely used in Amsterdam and in Glasgow City. It can be fitted to an overhanging soffit.
Construction Detail.
Thea Dammen, working for Natuur en Millieuteam De Pijp in Amsterdam, with one of the wooden boxes.
Tommy Donaldson Manager of City Building installing the first nest box in Ruchazie, on Glasgow City Council Housing property.
Duke Street. Contractor:- Cruden, Architect:- Cooper Crome, Client:- Loretto Housing Association
These double boxes were made by SWT training team in Cumbernauld to fit onto 5-storey flats in Airdrie, where the batons for fixing them were at 600mm centres and therefore lent themselves to double boxes. However, they ARE visually intrusive, and we would not use them again.
These boxes were put up on Strathclyde Park Sports Centre.
One situation where boxes may be a good option is where the house construction uses ladder soffits. The space between the “ladders” is ideal for boxing in to create nest boxes. The first boxes we made were complete boxes, but, with the help of the contracts manager J. B. Bennet at Cranhill, we adjusted them by degrees to become a boxing-in of the space.
The first boxes made by SWT training team in Clydebank.
Construction detail. N.B. The top is actually superfluous and was omitted later.
Off The Peg Boxes
Used at Culzean Castle National Trust Property (as well as saving some of the existing holes). These ones feature in the Scottish Executive’s in PAN 60 “Planning for Scotland’s Natural Heritage”. They are made of woodcrete; which may or may not be longer-lasting than marine ply, but are certainly a lot more expensive at approx. £40 each. External 15mm plywood boxes cost approx. £5 each including brackets.
Photo by Gordon Riddle.
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© ConcernForSwifts 2002