Contributed by Dick Newell
|St Mary the Virgin, St Neots|
A common question is whether Swifts are negatively affected by the sound of church bells. As far as we know, the answer is no. There are many examples of Swifts nesting successfully within a few feet of bells that are regularly rung. In Haddenham Church, a Tawny Owl nested successfully, for several years, within a few feet of the bells.
Our experience has been with making tailor-made box-shaped cabinets, containing multiple nest chambers. Typically, the nest chambers are ~350mm long by ~200mm wide with a height determined by the spacing between the louvres. The entrance should be 65-75mm wide x 30mm positioned near the floor of the nest chamber and towards one end. Entrances can be anywhere in the gaps between louvres.
|Boxes destined for St Mary's Ely|
Boxes installed in St Mary's, Ely
[Update 2014 - at least 30 boxes occupied by Swifts]
Many louvres are covered with anti-bird netting. You can either replace the whole area of the netting with the front of the box, but it is often easier to make a hole in the netting, larger than the entrance in the box, by cutting the sides and the top of a rectangle with wire cutters, then bend the wire inwards and downwards.
Louvres are typically supported in a wooden frame, with two substantial vertical side members. The width of the box can overlap these members, so that, with the back off, the box can be screwed securely to them. But first ensure that the louvres and frame themselves are secure.
It is prudent to start with a modest installation of boxes to see if you can get the Swifts started, then follow up with a more ambitious installation in later years.
Swifts seem to have a tendency to go for the top and bottom louvres, so boxes behind the top two or bottom 2 louvre openings, say, is a sensible way to start.
|12 boxes installed in St Mary the Virgin, St Neots.|
Here, the tops of the louvres were out of reach
[Update 2014 - 9 boxes were occupied by Swifts]
Access for maintenance can either be carried out after the end of the breeding season by removing the whole back, or simple access doors, secured by a single bolt through the top can be built which can be rotated to open. Disturbance earlier in the season will likely cause the birds to desert.
This has summarised much of our experience, and Swifts certainly take to this arrangement of boxes. However, there are other successful arrangements, including boxes placed behind one louvre spacing, with a bottom entrance accessed through the louvre spacing below.
For examples of details of church projects and other stuff about Swifts and churches see here