Three swifts flying, Spain

Create a high home for swifts

Activity time:
More than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Hard
Suitable for:
Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Bats, Birds

Set up a nestbox to give summer-visiting swifts a place to nest and breed year after year.

Swifts like high, deep crevices to nest, but because we’ve lost many old houses and buildings, and as roof spaces are filled or mended, their numbers have declined dramatically.

 

Fix a wooden swift box to the outside of your home to give them somewhere to nest.

 

You can build your swift box whenever you like, but it's a job that can be done indoors on rainy days when there's not as much to do in the garden.

 

If you have a suitable location but are short on time or DIY skills, you can buy a ready-made swift box. Make sure the entry hole is about 5.5cm wide x 3.2cm thick.

 

Are you doing this activity as part of your personal plan? Either take a look at your progress or create your own easy-to-follow personal plan to help you give nature a home where you live.

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What you will need

  • A sheet of exterior FSC (from a sustainable source) plywood, 1.8m long x 15cm wide x 1.2-1.8cm thick and not pressure treated
  • Saw
  • Nails
  • Drill
  • Glue
  • Screws
  • Tall ladder
  • Drill
  • Rawlplugs
Swift nestbox

Swift nestbox

Box with entry hole measuring 6.5cm x 3.0 cm, set at one end of the nestbox

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Step-by-step guide

How to cut the pieces of exterior plywood for your swift nestbox. The entrance hole in in the front. Top: 150 mm by 370 mm. Front: 150 mm by 370 mm. In one of the lower corners, cut a hole 80 mm by 45 mm, so that it is a letterbox shape. Base: 150 mm by 370 mm.  Two sides: 150 mm by 120 mm. Back: 150 mm by 450 mm. When assembled, there should be 40 mm of the back piece exposed at each side of the box.

  1. Check that you have a suitable location for your nestbox. You will need to place it high on the vertical wall of a building, ideally under the eaves, and it should be 5m (15 feet) above the ground, with an unobstructed flight path. Think of how a swift will approach the nest  it swoops down and then up to the nest site at speed, the upward ascent slowing it down to land. The box shouldn't be in direct sunlight, so an aspect between north and east is usually best. (Note: If you are having major renovation works done, you can use a special 'swift brick'. These actually fit into the fabric of the outer house wall. However, it should only be done by a qualified builder)

  2. Or make your own. Measure out the pieces of your exterior plywood according to our diagram. Cut all the pieces, including the rectangular hole into the front, shown in black, 4.5cm high and 8cm wide (the actual opening will be smaller once the box is made).

    Note: the dimensions shown are for 15mm thick wood. If your wood is different to that, the dimensions of the side pieces should be 150mm by 150mm minus 2 x thickness of wood you are using, eg if you're using 18mm wood it would be 150mm x 114mm.


  3. Assemble your nestbox. You can use nails, glue or screws, but make sure you use screws to attach the front so it can be removed and cleaned at a later date.

    Ideally, attach a little wedge of wood just above the entrance to help shelter the entrance hole from the elements. You’ll need the wedge to have a sloping top to stop predators perching there.

  4. Putting up the box. Use the projections on the back plate of the box to screw firmly to the masonry of the house, just under the eaves. To be safe, avoid fixing it over doorways, windows or walkways, just in case it falls. 

  5. Lure them in! We can't guarantee swifts will find your box, but you can increase the chances if you play taped calls of other swifts via a loud speaker during the breeding season (May-July). They can be bought from our good friends at Swift Conservation. If you are successful, swifts are sensitive to disturbance and protected by law, so just watch from the ground or install a nestbox camera before the breeding season starts.

  6. Create a swift colony. Swifts are gregarious birds which like to nest, feed and migrate in groups. They mate for life and like to return to the same nesting site year after year. So if you have space, why not put up a number of boxes, near each other.

  7. Why not become a swift champion?

Create a high home for swifts

Soaring swifts sometimes need to settle – here’s how to make your home theirs by building the right kind of box.

Create a high home for Swifts/Fix/Assemble/High Society

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