Monday 28 February 2011

Diary of a Swift nest

Posted by Bob Tonks:

This is the story of a Swift nest through 2010. These pictures are a small selection of many shots taken during the period the swifts were in the nest. The boxes were installed in 2007 and it was not until 2009 that swifts moved in to the box on the right and bred for the first time.

Watching Swifts

Posted by Jake Allsop:

If we are going to protect existing Swift colonies, we need to know where they are and how many breeding pairs there are. Easier said than done! It's not difficult to locate a Swift colony, the giveaway is the screaming parties round the chimney pots (If the Swifts are very high, they are feeding, and not necessarily associated with nearby buildings). A further clue is the way prospecting birds will swoop towards, and often "bang" against, potential nest cavities under eaves or tiles, or against crevices in brickwork.

Saturday 26 February 2011

How big is a Swift nest-box?

Update 28th July 2012
We have usually assumed that Swifts prefer larger spaces to smaller spaces. However, some recent experiences seem to indicate that smaller boxes may be OK. 
Our installation of air brick liners in the old factory site in Brook Street St Neots gave us 12 nest places with a floor area of 200 x 175mm and a height of 100mm. At least two pairs of Swifts took up residence, and one may have produced a chick.

We recently examined the contents of the nest-boxes in St Mary's Ely. We compared two basic sizes of box: 

  • 16 narrow boxes are  100mm x 300mm (a few widened to about 125mm) 
  • 80  wide boxes are 200mm x 400mm (most of these only recently installed).

In the narrow boxes we found 9 boxes containing 15 chicks = 1.67 chicks per box
In the wide boxes we found  9 boxes with 14 chicks = 1.75 chicks per box

The narrow boxes have been installed for a longer period than the wide ones which is why occupancy rates are different. Now, we do not know how many other boxes had failed; another uncertainly is that the narrow boxes have entrances in the floor, whereas the wide boxes have entrances in the side, but it seems that swifts are as productive in narrow boxes as wide ones.
Of course, we need to collect more data, but perhaps we need to be a little more open minded about small and narrow boxes.

Posted by Dick Newell:

Swifts can, apparently, nest in anything from a House Martin's nest to a whole roof space though the success rate in the former may be questionable. They nest in holes in trees in Scotland and in northern Europe in what must be quite confined spaces. Examples of successful commercial nest boxes have internal dimensions like 140mm x 300mm floor area, height 140mm. Erich Kaiser's very successful colony in Kronberg, Germany, has large nest-boxes about half the size of a tea-chest.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Why use a nest concave?

Posted by Dick Newell:
click to enlarge
When Swifts find a natural nesting place they will usually find a flat surface on which to nest. The first thing they need to do is to construct some sort of nest to stop their eggs rolling about. Most Swifts, when they first find a new nesting place, do not breed in that season, they spend their time building a nest ready for the following season. However, if the Swifts find a concave shape already in place, then this increases the chance that they may breed in that first season (per Erich Kaiser).

Saturday 19 February 2011

I am a Swift - I am in trouble

'I am a Swift' is a delightful booklet, suitable for children from about 6 years old, and it tells the story of the plight that Swifts face and what can be done to help them. 'I am a Swift' comprises 28 pages, full of information and stories about Swifts.

Click here for flipbook
Contact for more information.

Friday 18 February 2011

How to make a Swift Mobile

Here is a great idea for kids. OK, the kids may need a little help, but the resulting mobile will really show them what Swifts look like and help them gain an appreciation of these great birds. All you need to do is to download the instructions, then the template of shapes to cut out and you are all set up.

For templates with labels for wings down, wings flat and wings up configurations, click on these links:
Wings down  Wings flat  Wings up
Then in Googledocs, hit File > Download, or File > Print (PDF).
After cutting out the pieces, write the labels in brackets on the other side of the card. Then score, fold and stick matching labels together.
[UPDATE Nov 2015: We have uploaded a version with yellow lines suitable for printing on black card - download]