Swifts

Swift copyright Stefan JohanssonSwift copyright Stefan Johansson

Our project, being run in partnership with Derbyshire Ornithological Society, is aiming to help stop the decline in swift numbers.

Swift numbers are declining fast - in the last 20 years they have dropped by up to a half. Help us stop this trend by telling us where you've seen swifts in the county and where they are breeding.

About swifts
Swifts live out their lives entirely on the wing, only landing when they nest. This means that as the young fly off to Southern Africa for the winter, they will stay airborne for the next two years at least. Only when they start nesting themselves will they land again, and then only high up on a building and never on the ground or in a tree. They feed on the wing (eating insects in their hundreds), drink on the wing and even sleep on the wing!

Swifts are all black and have long scimitar-shaped wings. By comparison, swallows and house martins are smaller and also white underneath so you shouldn’t mistake a swift for either of the other similar species.

While house martins build mud nests under our eaves and swallows nest on beams, usually inside stables or barns, swifts make no visible nest at all. Instead, they fly up under our eaves, using whatever tiny crack they can find to gain entry into the roof space.

Urban populations
Swifts are essentially urban birds, nesting only on our buildings, especially older ones where small openings are still available for them. This is partly why their numbers are falling - they are excluded from their nests when buildings are renovated, new soffits or barge boards are fitted or when a house is re-roofed or has a loft conversion.

As part of the project, we can supply advice to householders, builders, architects and developers to show them how eacy it is to create small entrances for swifts.

How you can help
If you have seen swifts near you, let us know by email or phone us on 01773 881188. Please supply exact location details and a postcode.

Derbyshire Ornithological Society Advice leaflet for property owners