Friday 5 February 2016

Swift nest box 1908-09 style

The February 2016 issue of British Birds magazine contains a fascinating letter by Richard Porter and Graham Madge about the value of nestboxes to bird conservation (Brit. Birds February 2016).

by Dick Newell

The letter references a leaflet published by the RSPB over 100 years ago, in 1908/09, which includes nest box designs for the usual tits, woodpeckers, flycatchers, and Wrynecks (now extinct in the UK) and also a very nice looking design for  Swifts!

Swift box cropped from the leaflet below

In those days, you could buy a Swift box for 2 shillings (10p then, £10.75 in todays money).

Recorded bird calls had not been invented then, so one wonders what success rate they had with these boxes.

The BB article asks the question whether nest boxes have had any conservation impact on various species? The 3% per annum decline on a Swift population of 87,000 pairs (in 2009) (Musgove et al 2012) could mean that ~2600 pairs of Swifts are being lost each year. As the 87,000 is almost certainly an underestimate, and given likely occupancy rates, then 3 or 4 times 2600 nest boxes may be needed just to stand still.

If the mass house-builders get on board with the idea of incorporating nestboxes in every suitable gable end, then this should be doable.

The inspiring RSPB leaflet, published in Bird Notes and News 1908/09 is here:

Musgrove A., Aebischer N., Eaton M., Hearn R., Newson S., Noble D., Parsons M., Risely K. and Stroud D. 2012.
Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds 106 * February 2013 * 64-100
Porter R.F. and Madge, G.  2016. Boxing Clever: the value of nestboxes to bird conservation Brit. Birds, Letters, 109: 122

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