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.  


  • 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, 1,131 people have connected with the project so far, through 23 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, 38 volunteers were recruited and trained. They managed to gather over 200 records which can be used by local planners, developers and ecologists.

A swift tower design competition was launched, which had 33 entries, culminating in an exhibition in Oxford Town Hall from November to December 2017.

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

Planned Work

Over the course of 2018, the project will launch a Swift Survival kit scheme offering nestboxes, wildflower seeds and advice packs to community groups.

We will also be running a public arts competition and exhibition, and republishing David Lack's book Swifts in a Tower. 

The Oxford Swift City Survey will continue in 2018. We’re looking for people to record swifts in their local streets – to join in, take a look at our volunteering pages.

We’re also looking for casework volunteers to get involved with the planning process to support work to give swifts a home. Find out more.

We’ll be attending a number of events and running a series of talks to community groups - if you’d like to get involved, please get in contact.

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. 
  • 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. 
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