Swift action could help prevent decline in popular summer bird in Suffolk

Nesting swift

Nesting swift - Credit: Archant

Wildlife enthusiasts in Woodbridge are appealing for residents to help identify swift nesting sites for research aiming to halt the decline of a favourite summer visiting bird.

The group is working closely with homeowners, builders and developers to remind them that swifts need access to roof spaces for nesting.

The Woodbridge RSPB Local Group is preparing to launch a survey of the birds – which winter in Africa – this spring and while it knows a number of sites used for nesting, it is hoping people in the area will provide details of more possible places.

Jenny James, from the group, said: “In our 2016 survey we are looking for swift nest sites either in roofs or nest boxes.

“Between early May and early August if you see swifts flying at roof level, particularly around the eaves, this could be a nest site. You may see them flying directly into a hole or through a loose tile into the nest with food for the young.

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“If it is your house you may hear them from the upstairs rooms.

“Another sign of breeding swifts is ‘screaming parties’. These are the groups of birds which fly around in a tight group, at or just above roof top height.

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“We would like to hear about nest sites and screaming parties.”

This year the survey team is working with Save Our Swifts, the Suffolk-based group which is aiming to record all known swift nest sites by 2020.

All the data received will also be entered onto the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust websites, making a major contribution to the national picture of swift numbers and distribution.

Ms James said: “It is thought that one reason for swift decline is the loss of nest sites on buildings, through modernisation.

“Many roofs are now deliberately designed to exclude swifts by blocking up entry points. So we will do all we can to raise awareness among builders, developers and home owners about the need to allow swifts to have entry points into our roofs.

“They are charming visitors – those who have them feel privileged to share their roof spaces with them for the summer months.

“To compensate for the loss of nest sites we are extending our campaign to encourage people to install swift nest boxes on their houses.

“Nest boxes will be available for sale at group meetings from now on, with advice about sound systems to attract the birds.”

People are asked to send their names, details of sightings – such as numbers of birds, when the swifts arrived and how often they are seen – plus address and postcode of the nest site via email. For screaming parties, details should include the date, address and postcode.

For swifts sightings in Ipswich, people should contact Chris Courtney

The Woodbridge RSPB group also has several leaflets available on helping swifts to nest which can be requested via email or viewed and downloaded from its website

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