Swift (Apus apus) SAP - Species Action Plan
Clare Darlaston, Concern for Swifts (Scotland)
Adult Swift in Hand Adult Swift in Hand - Photo Ian Livingston
Action Plan written for North Lanarkshire LBAP.

Information relating to North Lanarkshire is in italics and obviously needs to be changed for other areas)

1. Current status
Swifts are summer visitors to Britain, arriving in Scotland from Africa in the first or second week in May and leaving in August. They are notable for their wild aerobatics and shrill screaming around roofs and chimneys in summer when they reach incredible speeds. They are fully adapted to life on the wing. In North Lanarkshire, Swifts are mainly concentrated in the Motherwell/Clyde Valley area, Coatbridge and Kilsyth. It is thought that Swifts originally nested in crevices in cliffs and holes in trees. More recently, on the evolutionary time-scale, they have adapted to nesting almost exclusively in buildings. They are recorded as nesting in church towers, under tiled roofs, under the eaves of buildings where they gain access via gaps and cracks in stonework, bricks or concrete, and in holes in walls. If disturbed or excluded from a nest site, they may find it difficult to relocate to a new nest site, at least for that season. Young pairs find new unoccupied nest sites during their first summer as adults, and return to breed in them the following year, i.e. when they are 2 years old. The British Trust for Ornithology estimates the total swift population in Britain to be 80,000, naming Strathclyde Park as an important feeding area for swifts. It is also significant as a ringing base, but information about the sites and numbers of breeding colonies in North Lanarkshire is currently piecemeal and incomplete. Swifts are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, which makes it illegal to knowingly destroy or disturb the nest site during the nesting season. They have not yet been awarded "threatened" status. However an increasing number of people both in Britain and abroad are becoming concerned about the drop in numbers. Surveys are underway to attempt to quantify the fall.

2. Current factors causing decline
An important reason for the drop in numbers is loss of nest sites due to modern building practices. Increasingly swifts are excluded from their traditional sites by repairs which seal all gaps and cover ventilation spaces. Wire mesh or metal or plastic grids are now used to cover ventilation gaps and the renovation of older buildings for new uses usually involves the rigorous pointing of any small gaps or cracks in stonework.

3. Current action
NLC Housing Committee adopted a policy for the protection of swift nest sites in November 1999.
Survey of swift colonies is in progress.
Leaflets are available from North Lanarkshire council country parks or planning department.

4. Action plan objectives and targets

The objective of the action plan is to halt and reverse the decline of swift populations in North Lanarkshire. In principle this is not a difficult task, because permitting swifts access to actual or potential nest sites is technically easy. Swifts seem to prefer a small entrance giving access to a larger internal space for nesting. The small entrance generally excludes house sparrows and starlings. However, achieving action requires continuing liaison with house owners, local authority personnel, NGOs, builders and developers.

5. Proposed actions
Policy and Legislation
  Agree design details for future repairs with local authority officials(Concern for Swifts (Scotland),Local Authority)
  Have swift conservation measures included in planning conditions for new build or change of use proposals in suitable locations.
Site safeguard and management
  Liaise with historic building conservation authorities to promote conservation of swift nest sites when considering grant aid for the repair or renovation of historic buildings. Involve Historic Scotland, National Trust or the Scottish Executive as relevant. (Concern for Swifts (Scotland),Local authority, RSPB)
Species Management and Protection
  Promote the practice that building repair work should not begin between mid May and end of July where swift nest sites are suspected to exist. (Concern for Swifts (Scotland), Local authority, RSPB, SWT)
  Promote designs which permit swift access where buildings are being rennovated or when new buildings are being constructed; and promote the use of nest boxes where this is not possible, e.g. where there is no suitable accessible space. (Local authority)
  Promote the use of Swift nest boxes as a tool for education and awareness e.g. on schools and in Country Parks. Make links with the Eco-Schools or Sustainable Schools project. (Concern for Swifts (Scotland), Local authority)
Future Research and Monitoring
  Identify locations where swifts nest in North Lanarkshire, in order to locate colonies or nest sites.
  Monitor numbers of feeding Swifts over key sites such as Strathclyde Loch and Drumpellier Lochs. (Local authority rangers, RSPB, SOC, SWT)
Communication and Publicity
  Make available a leaflet and guidance note on swifts and nest site conservation. (Concern for Swifts (Scotland)) Publicise project in libraries Make available, on request, teaching aid "Swifts and flight- for the 5-14 curriculum" Use local newspapers
© ConcernForSwifts 2002