Make a home for swifts
Swifts really are incredible little birds! Living on the wing is no small feat, eating, drinking, mating, washing and even sleeping without ever setting down really takes some doing!
Just for a moment, think about a nightmare day at work, you know the ones, we've all had them. One of those days when you're constantly rushing about and don't get a single moment's breather until you're back home. Then you have to start with all the cooking, cleaning and washing! Remember how sore your feet were and how grateful you were to be in bed that night?
Now imagine that day never ended, imagine the only sleep you got was a power nap on the train going back in to work. Now try to imagine you had to do that every day for nearly a year solid, then you'll be some way to understanding the life of a swift.
Impressed? Well it's not just the aerial acrobatics, demanding life and staggering migration distances that amazes me, it's the speed they can do it at too!
During display flights they have been clocked at speeds of nearly 70mph!
Move aside Mr Peregrine, anybody can move quickly when it's straight down and gravity assisted but these little speed demons can hit their peak whilst flying level and even ascending!
Making a swift box
Swifts are amazing birds: but they're in trouble. Their numbers here have halved in just the last 20 years. I'm going to show you an easy way you can help them.
Swifts need somewhere to nest.
You've got three options.
You can buy a ready-made nestbox like this one.
Install one of these nufty swift bricks into a wall.
Or, make your own swift box!
This is what you're going to need to make your swift box:
- a saw
- some wood, preferably chemical-free
- a hammer and chisel
- some screws
- a tape measure
- a drill and a few bits
The wood is cut into six sections
Top: 460mm x 190mm
Back: 440mm x 155mm
Front: 380mm x 155mm (with a hole 28mm tall x 65mm wide)
Base: 380mm x 148mm
Left end: 148mm x 143mm
Right end: 148mm x 143mm
Measurements based on 12mm thick wood
First, cut out the wood and make the entrance hole on the front.
This needs to be 28mm by 65mm.
That's big enough for swifts, while preventing bigger birds from getting in.
Then, simply screw the sections together.
Take great care, or consider getting a professional to put your swift box up.
Make sure the box will not be in direct sunlight, and that it's at least five metres above the ground with plenty of space in front for the birds to fly in.
Swift calls can help the birds find their new home.
Find out more on our website www.rspb.org.uk/homes-for-swifts
The swift's link with speed has fascinated me from an early age. I remember first finding out about them from my dad. He's not a conservationist - but he is former pro cyclist. So what's the link? Any cyclist worth their mettle used to have a swift tattooed on their leg to show that their speed made them a real contender. This was before the days of Google, so as a toddler we would go to libraries looking for the perfect image.
This interest in swifts would stay with me throughout my life and continues to this day. I have so many happy memories of laying on my swing on those long, warm, summer evenings. Slowly rocking back and forth, just looking up and simply watching the shows that the swifts provided.
But, unfortunately, those evenings are rapidly dwindling along with swift numbers. We have lost over half our swifts in just the last 20 years and those numbers will continue to drop if we don't help.
There are various contributing factors to this, but one of the big reasons is a lack of nesting sites. New homes and fascias are being built without the necessary nooks and crannies for these little birds to get in. This means no new nests which in turn means no new swifts!
Last year I built a nest box during my lunch break in literally 25 minutes. There were a couple of swifts showing interest in the gap between two wooden rafters protruding from a building. A quick measure up let me box them in with entrance holes and nest cups to boot.
When I heard about the RSPB's push to get 1000 new boxes installed around the country I jumped at the chance to help.
So, if like me, you feel that the summer skies are much quieter than you remember and that the lack of calls really do speak volumes then you'll be itching to join in and do what you can to help.
Take a look at my video - I hope it inspires you to make a home for swifts!