Create a high home for swifts

Activity
Swift bricks on the side of a house
3-4 hours
Spring Autumn Winter
Advanced

Swifts will come back to the same nest year after year. They 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 and they are now on the UK Red list of conservation concern. Fix a wooden swift box to the outside of your home to give them somewhere to nest. You can build your own swift box, or if you are short on time or DIY skills, you can buy a ready-made swift box.

Swift bricks on the side of a house

Step-by-step guide

Create a high home for swifts video screenshot
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, 28mm high and 65mm wide.

Note: the dimensions shown are for 12mm thick wood.If your wood is different to that the dimensions will need to adjust accordingly to match the size needed for the opening.

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 from perching there.

4

Putting up the box.

Use the projections on the backplate 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 loudspeaker during the breeding season (May-July).

Swift nest boxes can also be bought from our RSPB Shop. 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 that 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.

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
  • Rawlplugs
Swift Nest Box available from the RSPB Shop

Ready-made nestboxes

If you’d prefer to buy instead of build a nestbox, take a look at our own RSPB Shop

£42.00

Buy now