South Downs ranger, Chloe Goddard, gives some practical advice on creating your own swift box.
For just 3 months of the year swifts can be seen in our skies, arriving in early May from Central Africa and leaving again at the end of July.
They are beautiful and incredible birds – they eat, drink, sleep and mate on the wing, only landing to breed. A swift can live over 20 years, and so one individual may fly over a million kilometres in its lifetime!
Spending so much time on the wing they are fantastic aerialists, a pleasure to watch, and they sound as though they are squealing with joy too.
Their time spend with us is arguably the most important time of the year – their breeding season. Swifts build their nests from straw and saliva under the eaves of houses and other buildings.
The trouble for swifts (and swallows and martins too) is that many of these important spaces have been made inaccessible on our modern buildings.
Each May I see large numbers of swifts flying above my house and garden and the nearby fields (I think the main attraction are the many flies above the cow pats in the field, and maybe to a lesser extent the mosquitoes emerging from my pond and water butt) but I have no idea where they nest: I don’t see any good nesting opportunities nearby.
The eaves of the house I live in, and the houses of my neighbours, are sealed off by a pretty shabby, but completely swift-proof soffit.
So this year, with plenty of extra time to spend at home, I’ve finally managed to put some nest boxes up before the swifts’ arrival.
I’ve made 4 boxes (so far) for myself and a neighbour – swifts are gregarious birds and the like to feed, migrate and nest in groups.
If you see swifts around your house in the summer and, like me, don’t see any nesting sites nearby and, also like me, have a small stockpile of bits of old wood, then perhaps you could challenge yourself to get some boxes up in time for the swifts’ return?
I loosely followed this template (describing itself for those who are carpintarily challenged), adapting it slightly to work for the offcuts of ply wood I had available, or you could order a swift box from the RSPB.
And here is a short (speeded-up) video of how I got on during the build: