This is a North Wales Wildlife Trust project to try and help swift populations. They aim to do this by a) installing special swift nest boxes on suitable buildings in the area, and b) raising awareness and gathering information on swift colonies.
You can help with the latter by sending in your sightings. Any records of swifts are very welcome, but NWWT are particularly interested in sightings of potential nesting behaviour. This would usually involve either
- A screaming party – excited groups of two, three or more swifts in low-level fast flight and screaming calls
- Prospecting – birds flying up to inspect buildings close-up, sometimes clinging temporarily to walls below eaves
- A nesting attempt – actually entering through cracks under eaves etc.
Any records of young swifts found on the ground (dead or alive) are also valuable as they also constitute a breeding record. [Swifts of any age often struggle to get airborne again if they find themselves on the ground – if you find one like that that seems otherwise healthy, you can help by gently launching it into the air].
Detail of the exact location (i.e. name or street number of building), especially if it’s a prospecting or nesting attempt record, may be useful in considering future potential nest box sites.
We want people to submit their sightings of swift through our Local Records Centres Cofnod. Just click on the Swift Recovery icon on their website: www.cofnod.org.uk
Although they’re not related to swallows and martins, swifts are superficially similar to these species, and people are sometimes confused about which is which. Help with identification is available in bird guides or ID pages such as the RSPB’s: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/swift/identification.aspx
but some general tips are:
- Swifts in flight are all-dark (swallows and martins both show pale undersides if seen well)
- Swifts have long, narrow, blade-like wings, often held in a crescent shape (swallows and martins’ wings are pointed but not as long and thin)
- Swifts tails are forked but this isn’t always visible in flight, and they don’t have long streamers (like swallows)
- Swifts usually fly with stiff wings. They either glide, or fly with powerful, often very rapid wingbeats, and can reach speeds of nearly 70mph (swallows and martins can be fast too, but their flight is more flexible and buoyant, with more twists and turns)
- Swifts don’t perch, either on wires or barn doors, or the ground (swallows and house martins do)
- Swifts nest in crevices / cavities and don’t build an external nest with mud (swallows and house martins do)
- Swifts have a really characteristic screaming call (neither swallows nor martins scream)
There are many different designs of swift box, suited to different buildings. Swift Conservation has more information here: http://www.swift-conservation.org/Nestboxes%26Attraction.htm . If you think swifts may breed nearby, please consider getting or making a box, and putting it up on your house of place of work. NWWT may also be able to offer advice on choice of boxes and installation.