Young Swift in Hand Young Swift in Hand Photo Gordon Riddle
Concern for Swifts is a project which aims to focus on swift nest site conservation.
It is international in its scope and has links with groups and individuals working for swift nest site conservation in England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, France, Poland and Palestine (where they have to dodge Israeli bombs to carry out their work). Most of the projects have been set up since 1995 and independently of each other, which gives the significant impression.
Firstly that swifts are loved and admired by urban populations as contributing to the quality of the urban environment.
Secondly that the threat to swifts is becoming obvious to many concerned individuals across their (the swifts!) nesting range.
There is considerable and mounting evidence (some of it documented, some of it anecdotal) of loss of nest sites through development and a resulting loss of swift colonies. But there has also been potential loss of sites and colonies which have only been saved by the endeavours of concerned individuals.
Examples of these are:-
  roof replacements in Amsterdam
  housing renovation in Bedford
  works to a ruined castle in Northumberland
This may not be only reason for all noted decline in swift numbers, but it is certainly the only reason we are aware of, are directly responsible for and ought to do something about.
Saving swift nest sites is not technically difficult or expensive - in fact the best solutions are usually free - but it may require persistence and a willingness to check that agreed work is actually carried out. Contractors do not always remember to carry out those little additional works when running to tight schedules and dodging penalty clauses.
Swifts have adapted to nesting almost exclusively in buildings (but click "where swifts nest" for swifts nesting in old woodpecker holes).We would be delighted to receive information of swifts nesting in a "natural" site.
There have been man-made swift nest-sites in the past. Perhaps the first swift nest site project was in Tuscany, where a tower was built specifically to attract swifts so that the young could be harvested for food!
The tower of the Museum of Science in Oxford
(where David Lack and others installed boxes in 1948 for the purpose of studying the birds) is a well-known and early example of provision for swifts.
At The Hirsel, in Coldstream
, Major John Douglas Hume, the naturalist, put up boxes in 1950-54.
Generally swifts are dependant on small holes on the outside of a building giving access to a larger space within. Most modern building methods take every precaution to ensure that there are no small holes or gaps and many modern materials (like plastics, metals and reinforced concrete) do not deteriorate to form suitable holes and gaps.
Examples are given of the types of building renovation and repair which destroy swift nest sites (click "threats").
However, many modern buildings and renovation schemes offer opportunities for creating in-built nest cavities or nest boxes which are cheap or cost-free and simple to provide. Please check out these opportunities before reaching for the nest box. Ask the architect and the contractor if they have ideas. Contract managers and site agents have been almost unfailingly interested, helpful and ready to suggest possibilities from their wider expertise in building construction. We have had greater support and interest from these people than from some more anticipated sources.
© ConcernForSwifts 2002