Oxford Swift City

The Oxford Swift City project aims to improve the outlook for swifts in Oxford, working to raise local awareness of the many ways that we can help these vulnerable birds.

Oxford Swift City Project HLF Funded


Swifts are quintessentially urban birds and a symbol of the British summer. Unfortunately, they're in serious decline: the UK breeding population has decreased by 51% from 1995 to 2015.

This is largely due to a loss of suitable nest spaces as old buildings are renovated or demolished. New buildings often lack the crevices these charismatic birds use as homes.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History has been home to many generations of swifts over the years, and the study of this particular population – dating from 1946 – is one of the longest ever continuous studies of its kind. For this reason, Oxford is the perfect place to host England’s first Swift City. David Lack's book Swifts in a Tower, still the key text on swifts, was based on this population.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’re working alongside local communities and partner organisations to improve the prospects for our local swifts, whilst also giving people opportunities to connect to nature.  

Have you taken action for swifts?
We’d love to know how you’ve helped swifts in Oxford. Please fill in our quick and easy form – it’ll only take a couple of minutes and we don’t need your personal information.


  • Increase public awareness and support for swifts by inspiring people to take practical action to help this iconic bird.
  • Improve data on swift populations, nest locations and foraging areas in Oxford.
  • Increase availability of nest sites for swifts in new and existing buildings.



Following a successful launch in May 2017, over 2000 people have connected with the project so far, through over 60 community engagement events. These included talks to local community groups and attending the Festival of Nature.

To gather crucial data for the Oxford Swift City Survey, over 40 survey volunteers were recruited and trained. They managed to gather over 200 records in the first year of the project which can be used by local planners, developers and ecologists.

A swift tower design competition received 33 entries, culminating in an exhibition in Oxford Town Hall in 2017. We have also run a public arts competition called Nature in the City. to celebrate the beauty of swifts. An exhibition of the shortlisted works is on display until 21 August 2018.

We have republished David Lack's book Swifts in a Tower, which is available to purchase from our shop.

We also developed a swift advice pack full of information about how to help swifts in Oxford.

Planned Work

Help give swifts a home by taking part in our community nestbox scheme. We’re supporting people to create nest spaces for swifts by offering a free kit to community groups. This will contain one or more swift nestboxes, along with wildflower seed, swift advice packs and a certificate of participation. Any group with a suitable building can apply, such as community associations, places of worship, sports clubs, or schools. Download an application here.

The project also seeks to set up a community swift group to continue helping Oxford's swifts beyond 2018.


  • Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
  • Environmental Resource Management
  • Dr. A. Lack
  • Dr. J. Hughes
  • Mr. C. Mason
  • Oxford City Council
  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History
  • Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre
  • The University of Oxford


Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund www.hlf.org.uk

Downloads to help swifts


Coast on a stormy day

Emily Seccombe

Project Officer


Further reading

  • To submit or view swift records in the RSPB's national Swift Survey please visit our survey site. 
  • Have you taken action for swifts? Let us know what you've done with our survey.
  • Find out more information on the RSPB's work on swifts here. 
  • For further advice on supporting swifts, please visit Swift Conservation's website.
  • To enter our Nature in the City art competition visit our competition page. 
  • Buy Swifts in a tower by David Lack
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Urban and suburban Species: Swift Project status: Project types: Education Project types: Research Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection