Easy ways to make swifts welcome
With swift numbers declining in the UK, one of the best things you can do to help these threatened birds is to provide ‘bed and breakfast’, giving them the homes and food they need.
What do swifts need?
When swifts arrive back in the UK in spring, after a marathon journey from their wintering grounds in Africa, they need two things: a safe place to nest and plenty of invertebrates to eat. But these things may be increasingly difficult to find.
As our houses are renovated and old buildings demolished, swifts find themselves shut out of the nooks and crannies they make their homes in. In addition, habitat loss, pesticide use and other factors may well have affected their insect prey, potentially making it harder for swifts to find enough food to breed successfully.
Put simply, without the food and nest sites they need to successfully raise chicks, swifts are likely to keep declining. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As you’ll see below, there are simple and effective ways that you can create your own swift B&B to support these wonderful birds while they’re in the UK.
Put up a nest box
By building a specially designed nestbox and fixing it under the eaves of your home, you can mimic the cosy holes swifts usually nest in. It’s easier than you might think too – follow our step-by-step instructions and video and you’ll have created a swift des-res in no time!
It can take a little while for swifts to adopt a new nest site, so don’t worry if your box isn’t used straight away. Swifts are long-lived and creatures of habit, so once they do find your box, they’ll keep returning to it year after year.
Also, don’t worry if other small birds find the boxes first – house sparrows, blue tits and great tits will all use swift nest boxes, but they usually won’t stop swifts taking over. Besides, our declining house sparrows need homes too!
Install a swift brick
If you’re embarking on some major house renovation work, creating an extension or building a new house then a swift brick, built into the fabric of a wall, is a great, permanent and low-maintenance alternative to a nestbox.
Gardening for swifts
Providing extra food for many garden birds is very simple – we just hang up a few feeders and watch them flock in. But for swifts, who catch their invertebrate prey on the wing, it’s not so easy. Although we can’t provide food directly, we can all make our gardens more wildlife-friendly to encourage more of the insects that swifts, and many other species, depend on.
Not only will growing wildflowers provide food and shelter for insects, which will in turn provide food for swifts and other wildlife, it will bring a wonderful splash of colour to your garden too. It’s win-win! Whether you plant up a window box or sow a whole meadow, every little helps.
Create a pond
Other ways to help swifts
Protect nesting swifts
Nesting swifts are protected by law – here’s what to do if they’re under threat from the renovation or demolition of buildings.
Seen a swift?
Let us know by submitting your sightings of nesting and low-flying swifts on Swift Mapper.
A swift adventure
Follow a swift on her migration and discover the threats she faces along the way.
Join the call to revive our world
Taking action to make your garden or local greenspace more nature-friendly is a great way to support wildlife, but we also need the UK government to play its part. Only by working together can we truly solve the problems faced by our amazing long-distance migrant birds.
The RSPB is calling on the UK government to help draw up global agreements aimed at tackling the nature and climate emergency. By signing our petition, you can help to revive our world, making it a better place for you and for nature.