Securing the future for our struggling swifts

Deio Gruffydd

Thursday 16 May 2019

A new purpose-built tower to give swifts a home in Cardiff

Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

A brand-new home for swifts has been publicly launched today at Queen Alexandra House, Cardiff Bay Barrage. In a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by Glamorgan Bird Club, RSPB Cymru and Cardiff Harbour Authority, this special tower has been built to help give a home to swifts as they summer in our capital city.

Designed by Polish architects Menthol and located only a short distance from the footpath leading to the Barrage, the unique ‘Y’ shaped structure will provide 90 nesting sites for swifts. The tall design will help protect them from predators on the ground, and its location on the barrage is ideal as they take flight to hunt for insects. A special call system powered by solar panels installed on top of the tower will also help attract young swifts to nest there as they prospect for the perfect nesting site.

Swifts were once a common sight in Cardiff, but their numbers have fallen over recent decades. Since 1995, a decline of 69% has been seen in swift numbers in Wales. Swifts nest high in the roofs of old houses and churches and between gaps in brickwork and roof tiles. However, due to modernisation and building redevelopment within our towns and cities, these nooks and crannies are disappearing fast. This is one of the major causes for their population decline, as many swifts return from their winter migration to find that their nest sites have been sealed-up.

Swifts spend their winters feeding in Africa, but every year they make an astonishing 6,000-mile journey to Northern Europe. They stay here for approximately three months to breed, before returning south. These remarkable birds spend up to 90% of their lives in flight, and they eat, sleep, drink and even mate on the wing. They’re superb fliers, and can be seen performing stunning aerial displays during long summer evenings.

Strinda Davies, Chair of Glamorgan Bird Club said:
“This is a very proud moment for us. This project has been a number of years in the making, and it’s a brilliant sight to see the tower standing proud on the Barrage. Our volunteers have worked tirelessly and contributed their energy, free time and weekends to ensure that this project has moved along. Thanks to their passion for birds and commitment to conserving their habitat, a big step has been taken in helping swifts in Cardiff for years to come.”

Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure said:
“This distinctive new tower is a result of some really good partnership working and will make a great addition to the Barrage. It’s a real landmark for visitors and should provide a big boost to the swift population here in Cardiff as, over the next few years, they begin to make it their home.”

Jazz Austin, RSPB Cymru Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff Project Manager said:
“Similar to many cities and towns, Cardiff’s roof tiles play an important role in creating a safe environment for swifts to breed. Swifts populations have experienced dramatic declines in recent years. However, there are ways we can help keep swifts in our city such as by installing swift bricks in new and existing buildings and protecting current nest sites during building repairs. That’s why it’s so exciting for us to have been involved in the swift tower project at Cardiff Bay, to help these birds by creating so many new potential nest sites.”

“We also look forward to continue working with Cardiff’s Swift Surveyor Volunteers over the coming years. Our brilliant volunteers help us monitor swift numbers in our city to help understand which areas need to be protected as nest sites and to help monitor any changes in Cardiff’s swift population.”


Editor’s notes:

1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2. The project was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and is a collaboration between the Glamorgan Bird Club, RSPB Cymru and Cardiff Harbour Authority.

3. Swifts are on the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber list. These are species with species with unfavourable conservation status in Europe.

4. If you’ve seen a swift, you can let us know by inputting your sighting to the RSPB Swift Survey. Through this survey we’re building up a record of where swifts are seen in Cardiff so that we can better protect them.

5. Swifts may take up to three years before using the tower for nesting sites, but there is a good chance that swifts will be flying past the tower as they prospect for suitable nesting sites.

6. More information and data on swift numbers in Wales and the UK can be found on the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey

Last Updated: Friday 12 July 2019

Tagged with: Country: Wales Country: Wales Topic: Give Nature a home Topic: Swift Topic: Wales Topic: Wales