Swifts May update from Rowena Quantrill

Our swifts are back, a wonderful glimpse of freedom in these restricted days. At the moment it is the breeders who are back – the younger birds who will be searching for nesting places for future years will follow them in a week or two and finally the youngest birds, just practising the journey for now. Migration is one of the wonders of the natural world. UK swifts make one of the longest migration journeys in the world, flying around 14,000 miles every year. Many will never land from the time they fledge to when they start breeding, at least 3 years

These birds deserve our awe but also need our help. The number of swifts breeding in the UK has dropped dramatically, down 57% between 1995 and 2017. Bradford on Avon has really good numbers of Swifts, partly due to our old roofs providing lots of niches for nesting but it is important that we know where these nests are so that if people are making repairs we can advise them that Swifts are nesting there and look at how the nesting space can be retained or provide an alternative such as a nest-box. Swifts are very faithful to their nesting site and return to them year after year and may well not breed at all if they find them blocked.

The Bradford on Avon Swift group was planning a thorough survey of nesting Swifts this summer but this will almost certainly not now be possible so we would love to hear any observations you may have of Swifts entering into nest spaces – these are often under roof tiles or in cracks in walls but they will be internal – Swifts do not make external nests like House Martins, or visible nests in barns, porches and so on like Swallows. If you are unsure about recognising which of these is which there is an excellent guide here