A new book to help communities save their Swifts has been launched by BirdWatch Ireland and Local Authority Heritage Officers, nationwide.
Like Swallows, Swifts are an iconic summer visitor to Ireland, arriving in early May following a long migration from southern Africa. Slightly larger than a swallow they are a ‘site faithful’ bird, returning generation after generation to the same buildings in towns and villages throughout Limerick to nest and raise young. Like many of our bird species however, Swifts are increasingly threatened through loss of nest sites and have suffered an alarming 40% population decline in the last ten years. Problems arise when buildings, which serve as nest sites, are renovated or torn down removing the Swifts nest sites and sometimes large nesting colonies can be lost overnight.
The good news is that there are many practical steps that we can all take to make a difference, and the new guide Saving Swifts produced by BirdWatch Ireland and local authority Heritage Officers is available to help. The guide, funded by the Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, as part of an initiative to encourage projects under the National Biodiversity Action Plan, contains all the information required for developers, individuals, local groups, schools, businesses or government departments, to play a role in helping this amazing and threatened species. The information is presented in a colourful and user-friendly format and includes details on Swift ecology; reasons for declines, suggested conservation measures, nest box plans, case studies and much more.
Swifts nest in buildings where small gaps allow access to the roof space or cavities in masonry. Their chosen nest sites are often in older buildings that are sometimes dilapidated or in need of renovation. Awareness about the presence and requirements of Swifts is essential to ensuring that their nest sites are protected as part of renovation works. This typically involves timing of works to take place from September to May. There are also many opportunities to create new nesting sites as part of new developments by installing nest boxes or nesting bricks.
The Saving Swifts guide is available in the supporting documents below.