Saturday 18 June 2011

A Box of Swifts

Contributed by Dick Newell and John Clamp

Speaker, power supply and Box of Swifts

We are currently testing a small number of prototype Swift call players, built out of standard, low cost electronic components, including amplifier chips. The result, called "A Box of Swifts" is a simple to use, no hassle device with a power supply in (anything between 6 and 12 volts) and a single wire out to drive a small, quality speaker.
When power is switched on, A Box of Swifts starts playing for an indefinite period of time, until the power is switched off, so controlling it with a low cost timer is easy.

Swift calls are held on a memory card, so there are no moving parts to wear out. There is no messing about with amplifiers, clamps on play buttons, or mains power to speakers.
 The small speaker is easy to attach to the bottom of a Swift nest-box. 20 metres of wire to the speaker does not seem to attenuate the signal.
Although it does not have the power of a ghetto-blaster, early indications are good, with Swifts showing considerable interest.

UPDATE 20/09/2011
We had success with new occupants in 3 places this year, and in other places, the Swifts responded well. 
In further tests, we tried driving two speakers in parallel and in series, which might be useful in situations where you need more sound, or sound in two places at once e.g. two sides of a belfry. This works well, with the parallel configuration generating more sound, and without overheating the components in the box.

UPDATE 2/04/2012
You can find instructions for operating and installing the BoS here, then hit File > download


  1. Hi Dick and John,

    Many thanks for a most interesting article.

    I have been considering fixing an external nestbox under the eaves this winter to see whether the local Swifts might be encouraged to take up residence when they return next Spring.

    I know that some form of CD player system will need to be installed to attract the birds but this has been something of a sticking point as I have no experience of what sort of kit would be needed.

    Your "A Box of Swifts" looks like the perfect solution as it is compact, simple and low maintenance.

    Are there any plans for "A Box of Swifts" to go on sale?

  2. Hi David,
    We are planning a production run ready for next year.

  3. Hi Dick,
    Good news. I will keep my eyes peeled for the production version!
    Many thanks,

  4. Hi Dick,

    Happy New Year, albeit somewhat belated! With Spring now approaching I wonder whether production versions of your 'A Box of Swifts' will be available in readiness for their return in a few months time?

    Best regards,


  5. We will do something David, we are also investigating another idea. We will post our plans here when we have decided exactly what we will do - still plenty of time.

  6. Hi there,

    I am really interested in the 'Box of Swifts' for an inaccessible location with a power supply - any sign of a commercial product?

    Mícheál Casey

  7. Hi Dick,
    As I have heard no more from you or whoever you copied your reply to, sorry but I forget his name,i am still at sea here as regards how I might make my own version of your Box of Swifts.Of course I don't wish to spoil any plans you may have to market them,though i wondered if you stopped making any more through being overwhelmed ??? I could understand that.
    I have got a car Cd player working with a 240volt/12/2.5 amp adaptor to power it and controlled by a time clock and a couple of tweeters sited inside the nest boxes. We have 30 or so Swifts over the school when the weather is fair.
    Good luck with your project, and be assured that I am still very interested in obtain your Box of Swifts or the plans on making my own.
    Phil ( Guernsey0

  8. Is it possible to have the "drawings" of the 'box of Swifts'?
    I would love to make one for my self.

    Johnny from Norway

  9. Pop us an email on and we will try to answer you. Dick