Keeping swifts ‘the sound of summer’ in the sky!

Keeping swifts ‘the sound of summer’ in the sky! - UK and Ireland :

Swifts are regarded as ‘the sound of summer’ but there are concerns about their plummeting numbers. Swift Awareness Week (SAW) is seeking to raise awareness of these amazing birds across the UK.

Held annually since 2018, this year UK Swift Awareness Week is being held from July 3 – 11, 2021. Local events are being held across the UK throughout the month of July hosted by over 90 local groups from the south coast to the north of Scotland, who are working to keep these remarkable birds in our skies, aimed at inspiring people to join in. View the full list of events: Action for Swifts: SAW 2021 events

“The week gives swift enthusiasts the opportunity to run a wide range of events aimed at their local communities. Evening swift-watching walks are popular and well attended but in addition there are swift stalls, displays, zoom talks and more. In the last ten years there has been an explosion in the number of active local swift groups,” says coordinator Nick Brown, of the Derbyshire Swift Conservation Project. Most of the events are set up by individuals who felt the need to do something to look after their local swifts, he notes “a bird which nationally have declined by 62% in the last 25 years.”

Swifts spend most of their lives on the wing, never landing anywhere except at their nests in order to lay and incubate their eggs. They feed, sleep, drink and even mate on the wing. Not the easiest of birds to photograph, do have a look at the iSpot gallery of observations of swifts (Apodidae) posted in the UK & Ireland here: We would like to see more particularly during iSpot12for12: Get iSpotting and add all the observations you can! 

Essentially African birds, Swifts spend nine months of the year flying above that continent’s forests without ever landing. They migrate back to Europe in spring to breed but set off back to Africa only three months later. Go to: to view some of the swift iSpot observations from Africa.

“Swifts bring our towns and cities alive with the sound of their spectacular “screaming parties” and their fantastic aerodynamic flights. We need to keep this unique experience alive and local groups across the country have shown how to do it! This iconic bird has declined drastically and it needs all the help it can get. So join your local group or set up a new one and start making a difference to our threatened biodiversity,” says Edward Mayer, who promotes swifts across Europe and runs Swift Conservation.

Swifts could be nesting near you! They nest inside buildings, gaining access either through tiny holes below eaves or under tiles where mortar has fallen out, but they leave very few signs of their presence and house owners can have a pair without even realising it. However, they can be helped easily and cheaply by installing special nest boxes for them on existing properties or on new buildings by installing internal swift ‘bricks’ or ‘blocks’ just below the eaves as the walls are built, advises Dick Newell, from Action for Swifts, who has been successful at installed boxes and getting swifts to use them.

06 Jul 2021
Janice A