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Swifts at St Andrew’s

Updated: Jun 14


In the recent RSPB magazine ‘Nature’s Home’ there is a rather alarming article about the decline of swifts. This acrobatic little bird is now on the ‘Red List’ of species in decline. There has been a 58% decline over the last 23 years but why? Well the article in the magazine says “loss and lack of nesting sites certainly plays a part. Swifts nest in our buildings, flying fast and straight to post themselves through small slots, into cavities in old buildings, behind roof tiles, eaves, facia boards and soffits. Renovations and improved insulation (no bad things in themselves) can, often unwittingly, mean that nest sites are blocked or lost.”


Well, we have just completed a project at St Andrew’s which we hope will, in a small way, help stem the decline of these marvellous little birds. Last year we installed 5 boxes (10 nests as there are two in each box we installed) on the south side of the louvres in the bell tower. Not surprisingly no swifts nested there last year as the adults would already have had their nesting sites (swifts return to the same nest each year once established). However, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by Henry Griffin who, over the winter months, has built a further 12 boxes. With the help of David Routledge and Alan Colley (and some professional roofers) and some financial assistance from the Hall Trust, these boxes have now been installed in time for the arrival of the swifts this year. You may hear their call if you are passing by the church at the right time of day. However, this is not yet ‘the real thing’. It is a recording designed to let the swifts know the boxes are there and to attract them to their new nesting sites.


The central group of boxes are last year’s and the 6 on either side are this year’s addition.

Some fascinating facts about swifts:

· No other bird can fly faster in level flight (69.3mph is the fastest recorded)

· They spend the winter in Africa

· In the average lifetime (5.5 years) a swift may fly 4 million miles

· Everything, except nesting, is done on the wing:

o Eating

o Drinking (scooping raindrops or passing low over still, open water)

o Mating

o Sleeping

o Preening and bathing

A young bird can stay airborne for 3 years before landing on a solid object

· Swifts pair for life

· They are only here for around 3 months, two of which are spent raising chicks

· Before fledging, the young swifts build strength by performing ‘press-ups’ on their wing tips until they can hold themselves up for a few seconds

· Their legs are so short that if they land on the ground they cannot take off again!


So we are hoping that, in our small way, we are contributing to the survival of these astonishing little birds (and of course this is a small contribution to our Eco Church Award).


Ian Smith

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