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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 buildings in towns and villages throughout Ireland to nest and raise young. Like many of our wild species however, Swifts are increasingly threatened through loss of nest sites and have suffered an alarming 40% population decline in the past decade. Problems arise when buildings are renovated or torn down removing the Swifts nest sites and sometimes huge 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 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 which 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 works to take place from Sept to May. Also, there are many opportunities to create new nesting sites as part of new development through installing nest boxes or nesting bricks.

Guardians for the Swift

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