According to the BTO’s recent Breeding Bird Survey figures, swifts in Wales have declined by 69% since 1995. These fantastic birds are currently the most declined species, with a steeper rate of disappearance even than curlews. It’s a worrying finding, and confirms anecdotal reports of dwindling numbers from many local swift observers in recent years. It also adds urgency to the Wildlife Trust’s conservation and awareness-raising work. The big questions are ‘What’s really driving the decline?’, and ‘What can be done?’
Nest-site loss through refurbishment of older buildings is surely part of the answer, so better protection of existing nest-sites must now become a priority. Precise knowledge of where swifts nest is therefore required, and volunteer observation can make a significnt contribution to this. Installing swift bricks and nest-boxes, as we’ve has been doing throughout North Wales, should also be promoted wherever suitable, and it’s good to hear that Jenny Rathbone AM (Wales Environment Link’s ‘Swift Champion’) has recently written to the Welsh Government, calling for swift bricks to be incorporated into guidelines for new-builds. It would be a great step forward if this could become standard policy.
However, loss of invertebrates, changing summer weather patterns and/or the effects of climate change on winter habitats are all other possible factors. It could also be that if local swift populations go below a critical density (for whatever reason), their breeding success goes down too. We need to know more – and we need your help!