Act swiftly to save incredible bird in Greater Manchester

Annabel Rushton

Friday 15 February 2019

  • The RSPB is calling on homeowners and businesses in towns and cities across Greater Manchester to take simple steps to help save swifts
  • Swift numbers have plummeted by half in just twenty years
  • Now’s the time to act – before the birds return from Africa in spring to raise their families
  • The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) National Nestbox week, 14-21 February, is the perfect time to get bird boxes up


In just a few months’ time, swifts will be making their epic 6,000 mile journey back to the UK from Africa to bring up their chicks. But for many, the chance to lay their eggs will be thwarted: our buildings are changing and their former homes under the eaves are gone, as are the spaces we used to leave for them. These birds are now vanishing from our summer skies: half have gone in just twenty years.


So the RSPB is appealing to the public across Greater Manchester to help provide as many new homes for them as possible. Just 1,000 additional new nestboxes could make a difference.


The scheme will fund the purchase and erection of swift nestboxes in Greater Manchester and costs £90 for five-year box sponsorship. The sponsored boxes will be placed in various locations around Greater Manchester and fitted with cameras allowing the monitoring of the comings and goings of the swifts - when they arrive, when eggs are laid, when the chicks hatch and when they leave the nest. Those who sponsor these boxes will receive a certificate and updates about the swifts occupying their box as well as a summary of how all the nestboxes in the scheme have fared each year.


Mike Harris from the RSPB said: “Swifts are masters of the skies. They fly all the way here from Africa in the spring to breed. When a young swift leaves the nest, they don’t ever land again until they reach breeding age at around four years old, and even then, they only come to land when they breed. They spend their lives in the air – they feed in the air, they mate in the air, and they even sleep in the air! They are simply incredible.


Sadly swift numbers are in decline due to a lack of suitable nesting sites. This is because new buildings don’t often have the nooks and crannies that swifts need to get inside buildings to nest, and older buildings have often had them blocked up.


Mike added: “The swifts that nest in Greater Manchester arrive here in late April - May and may spend just 3 months with us; soaring and swooping over rooftops catching insects to eat. Providing nesting sites for swifts is crucial to help turn their fortunes around. As well as individuals in their homes, we need local councils and developers on board as they have the power to make an enormous difference. Think of all the new building that’s going on around Greater Manchester: with a few tiny changes we could be providing millions of homes for swifts so we’re hoping this new sponsorship scheme will encourage lots of people to do their bit to help this stunning summer visitor in Greater Manchester.”


There is also an opportunity for those who wish to put up a swift box on their property. The RSPB will supply two boxes and the swift call attraction system for a recommended donation of £30. Suitable properties need eaves that are at least five metres from the ground, on a north or east facing wall and with a clear line of flight from the boxes. Swifts make great neighbours, as they don’t create mess on properties.


To register your interest or for more information, email

Last Updated: Friday 15 February 2019

Tagged with: Topic: Swift