Swift Action

The summer migration of birds brings joy to us all – they are the harbingers of longer, and warmer, days.

By now most country dwellers will have spotted their first swallow, but slightly later to arrive are the swifts. Their shrieking calls are the characteristic sign of summer for those lucky enough to have swifts nesting nearby – accompanied by their scything flight and crescent silhouette up high. 

Swifts are birds that famously sleep, and mate, on the wing (their legs are the shortest compared to their size of any bird) and they average 6,800km each year travelling between the rolling plains of east Africa and the (slightly less) rolling hills of the UK. Their name may also reflect their top speed of 70mph.

To feed they catch flying insects floating on the thermals (and spiders hang-gliding from strands of webbing) and will be seen en masse ahead of a storm front, often flying many miles from their nests before returning to feed their young.

However, swifts have traditionally nested in the eaves of old houses, barns, and churches but the availability of such sites are declining in our increasingly tidy world. Such fascinating birds therefore deserve a little help when it comes to nesting. Indeed, pairs bond for life, returning to the same nest, so once you have a resident pair they will return the following year (with the oldest known swift confirmed to be a venerable 21 years old). 

If you see or hear swifts through the summer then you should consider sharing your home with them. To attract swifts you just need the right nest box. These can be designed into the eaves of a new house or can be retrofitted by fitting a box on the wall just below the eaves. These can be purchased or you can even make your own:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/nature-on-your-doorstep/garden-activities/create-a-high-home-for-swifts/

Make your home and garden a place where people and wildlife coexist.