The aim of Bristol Swifts website is to provide proven practical advice about swift conservation. Swift numbers have been steadily declining for the last 25 years and unless we do something to reverse this trend we could lose them forever. One of the main reasons for this decline is the loss of suitable nest sites. By discovering exactly where they are nesting, we can do something to help. The best option is always to try and protect an existing nest site but sometimes that’s not always possible, so the next best thing is to put up nest boxes nearby. Our website is designed to show some of the things you can do. Your help is absolutely crucial in helping these remarkable birds.
My name is Mark Glanville and I live in Bristol. I have been interested in wildlife in general and birds in particular all my life. My interest in swifts began in May 2005. I’ve been learning about them ever since and attended the International Swift Conference in April 2014. I am the Bristol & Avon contact for Swift Conservation and have advised many home-owners on suitable nest box sites, as well as being involved in larger projects both local and national.
My wife Jane shares my interest and has taken most of the photos and videos and created this website. We also have a website with photographs and videos of wildlife and wildlife-friendly plants taken in our Bristol Garden. We have opened our wildlife-friendly garden for the last 6 years as a way of helping promote swift conservation. We have also raised around £5000 for various charities. Most has been donated to National Garden Scheme with a small amount towards providing specialist care for injured and orphaned swift chicks.
Swifts (Apus apus) are the black, sickle-winged birds that characteristically fly at high speed around our buildings during the summer. They are often confused with swallows and house martins – see link to RSPB swift identification website for details.
Like so many other UK bird species the number of swifts returning each summer has been falling year on year. Between 1995 and 2018 swift populations seen across the UK have dropped by at least 58%. Such a rapid decline in numbers has led to the species being Red-listed in December 2021 in the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern report, and classified as Endangered in the second IUCN Red List assessment for Great Britain.
Although swifts are long distance migrants wintering each year in Africa, one of the reasons their numbers are falling lies much closer to home. Swifts prefer to nest in colonies in old buildings, walls and bridges. Many colonies have existed for tens and in some cases hundreds of years. Conservationists widely agree that large urban regeneration schemes, as well as individual household refurbishments over the last 20 years in cities like Bristol, has been one of the main reason swift numbers have declined so dramatically. The refurbishment of many old buildings have unfortunately resulted in the loss of hundreds of traditional nesting sites. Steps such as deferring maintenance work whilst swifts are nesting and not filling in every nook and cranny in roofs can make a huge difference. The simple fact is that new and modernised buildings offer little opportunity for swifts to nest. Installing internal nest bricks within new buildings is the way in which swifts can be helped. This is starting to happen in many projects across the UK. This includes the amazing work our friend Stephen Fitt has done with the Duchy of Cornwall estates. Other factors contributing to their decline include ever decreasing number of insects in the UK each summer, the destruction of their winter grounds in Africa and the effects of climate change on their migration route.
There are a number of excellent websites including Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts with detailed information for the individual, as well as action plans specifically designed for councils and developers.