Image by Ben AndrewIn spring and summer, the skies above Brighton and Hove come alive with swifts, as these aerial acrobats dart and dash through the skies, chasing insects for dinner.

But across the UK, swifts are in trouble, with their breeding numbers plummeting fast.

The number of UK swifts has dropped by more than 50% over the past 10 years and they need our help.

Across Brighton and Hove, residents are already hard at work to help ensure swifts still have a home here as part of the Swift City project, and you can help too.

Why are swifts in trouble?

Swifts are urban birds, and are very site faithful. Each year, they leave our shores, migrate over 1,000 miles to Africa, then return to exactly the same nest spot in the UK. This is usually a small space between roof tiles or tucked under the eaves of older buildings.

Yet more and more swifts are returning to discover their nest is gone or access has been blocked, as our older buildings get knocked down or patched up while they are away.

As swifts only visit the UK between May & August, people often don’t realise that swifts were using these holes and buildings.

But for swifts, this unexpected change can have serious consequences. Swifts cannot perch, so they are unable to land until they reach their nest. After a long migration they need to rest and recharge to make sure they are in prime condition before breeding season, but many now waste valuable energy looking for new nesting sites.

How can I help?

By helping us identify and record active nest sites around Brighton and Hove, you can help ensure that these swifts have a safe home to return to after their perilous journey. Our Swift Community Champions have already helped us to: Image by Ben Andrew

• Survey 105 nest sites since 2016

• Identify 81 nest sites in 2018, and they confirmed 51 of these as active.

• Install 20 new nest boxes in 2018

• Confirm that 30 sites identified 2016-17 were re-occupied 2018.

But sadly 24 sites where we expected to find nesting swifts were not active 2018, showing there is much more work to be done.

Volunteer Karolina really enjoyed her volunteering experience:

"Last spring I got involved with surveying swifts in Brighton and Hove. I would go out once or twice a week in the evening, with another surveyor, for couple of hours and we would look for low flying swift parties. I had never seen a swift before, or heard its iconic call, so it was all very exciting to see the first one. 

When we found several nests, we felt very lucky, as it’s not easy to find them. It just makes you smile a lot when you see this little bird flying in to its nest for the night after hours of socialising up in the air, suddenly it’s all quiet.

Everyone can get involved in different ways. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, it can simply be a conversation with neighbours about the importance of providing future nesting sites. I even have a swift box now and hope swifts will choose to breed in it at some point!"

We need even more people like Karolina to help others install special swift nest boxes, identify active nest sites and spread the word about the project. If you could spare just a few hours a week you could help make a massive difference for swifts, right on your doorstep!

I can spare 5 minutes: Thank you! Please take 5 minutes to log your swift sightings online here

I can spare an hour or more: Thank you! We would love to hear from you and get you involved in volunteering, please email us at bhswifts@rspb.org.uk

I want to find out more about swifts: Visit our website!

Swift facts:

• Swifts are the fastest bird on the planet in level flight.

• They are in constant flight for 9 months of the year!

• They eat, sleep and mate on the wing.

• They are one of the last migrating birds to arrive in the UK and one of the first to leave

• Unlike most birds, they rely solely on urban developments for nesting.

Images by Ben Andrew

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