As one of its projects as a European Green Leaf city, Limerick City and County Council has embarked on an exciting Swift conservation programme.
Swifts have declined by approximately 40% across Ireland in the last 10 years. In the recently released Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2020-2026 (4th edition), Swifts have moved from the amber list to the red list, the highest level of conservation concern. Once common in Limerick City, returning to nest each summer in small recesses in occupied and derelict buildings, the numbers of Swifts have dropped, mirroring national declines.
Limerick City and County Council in collaboration with BirdWatch Ireland’s Urban Bird Conservation Officer, Limerick City parish (Church of Ireland, Limerick City), The Hunt Museum, Shannon Heritage, the Limerick Branch of BirdWatch Ireland and Limerick City Centre Tidy Towns have embarked on an exciting conservation project to provide specialised Swift nest boxes at five locations across Limerick City. Swifts nest in colonies, they like to have neighbours, so thirty-nine ‘possible’ nesting boxes at a height of five metres from the ground have been provided at prominent sites in Limerick City.
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Collins welcomed the project: “This is a wonderfully ambitious conservation project for Limerick and great credit is due to all of the organisations involved and I wish this collaborative grouping every success and hope that a new generation of Limerick Swifts will fledge in the summer of 2021.”
Ricky Whelan, Urban Bird Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland said; “Swifts are fascinating birds, they weigh as little as a Cadbury’s Creme egg and feed, sleep and even mate on the wing, only needing to land to breed. They are summer visitors to Ireland from Southern Africa, arriving in May and remaining until early September. We cannot be sure that the nest boxes will be occupied in year one but fingers crossed they will occupy them soon. With wildlife projects you always need a little luck.”
Limerick Branch of BirdWatch Ireland, Maura Tuner added: “We are thrilled to have helped get this project underway and look forward to monitoring the nest-boxes over the summer of 2021. It may take a number of years for the Swifts to take up residence but we are committed to the cause and will keep working to conserve Limericks breeding swifts.”
Limerick City Centre Tidy Towns, Helen O Donnell said: “A Swift nest box project was recommended in our 2019 Tidy Towns Report. We would like to give a particular mention to St. Mary’s Men’s Shed for building some of the boxes that are installed in St. Marys Cathedral. It is just wonderful to see a project like this come to fruition. Now, let’s hope the swifts like what has been built for them.”
As part of the Limerick City Swift Nest Box project the Council’s European Green Leaf team along with the successful quoting contractor MP Joyce Contracting, Patrickswell, will be compiling a case study on the project which will allow other buildings in the city to build in Swift nest boxes as part of routine renovation works or as new builds.
If you are interested in helping Swifts you can download the BirdWatch Ireland - Saving Swifts guide from their website here.