North Wales Swifts

This is a North Wales Wildlife Trust project to try and help struggling swift populations. We aim to do this by a) raising awareness and gathering information on swift colonies, b) installing special swift nest boxes on suitable buildings in the area, and c) inspiring volunteers and ‘swift champions’ in local communities.

Swift Recording

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 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:

Swift ID
Although unrelated to swallows and martins, swifts are superficially similar to these species, and sometimes fly and feed in the same places, so people can be confused about which is which. Help with identification is available in bird guides, but some general tips are:

  • Swifts have a really characteristic, high-pitched screaming call (neither swallows nor martins scream)
  • Swifts in flight are all-dark (swallows / martins both show pale undersides if seen well)
  • Swifts have long, narrow, blade-like wings, often held in a crescent shape (swallows / 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 / 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 buildings, or the ground (swallows / martins do)
  • Swifts nest in crevices / cavities in buildings and don’t build an external nest with mud (swallows and house martins do, whilst sand martins nest in holes in riverbanks or cliffs)

Swift Nestboxes

There are various designs of swift box, suited to different buildings. Internal boxes or ‘swift bricks’ may be the most successful and sustainable option, but there are also several widely-used external boxes. Swift Conservation has more information here:

If you think swifts may breed nearby, please consider getting or making boxes, and putting them up on your house or place of work. NWWT may also be able to offer advice on choice of boxes and installation. Please note – if you put up nest boxes, swifts may not move in straightaway! The best way to attract swifts in is to play swift calls (on CD or MP3) as near as possible to a box - download full instructions here.


Swift Champions

NWWT are keen to support volunteers who want to help swifts in their own communities or workplaces. If you’d like to help monitor swifts, we can help train you and give you sites to survey in your area. If you think you could talk to local people about putting swift boxes up or protecting existing sites, or if you have contacts that could help with the high access work of installing boxes, we’d love to hear from you.

Engaging with wildlife has been proven to make people happier and healthier, and wildlife doesn’t get much more charismatic than swifts… Why not become a swift champion and stand up for a truly amazing bird!

Help spread the word - by printing off our project flyer and putting up in a local shop, school or community centre.

For more information please get in touch with Ben Stammers, our People and Wildlife Officer, and remember to check out Facebook page for regular updates.



FilenameFile size
nwwt_swift_flyer_english.jpg2.44 MB
nwwt_swift_flyer_cymraeg.jpg2.55 MB
swiftcallsinstructions.pdf82.15 KB
swift_press_release_2017.doc212 KB
swift_press_release_2016.docx56.45 KB
swift_press_release 2015.doc207 KB