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As the days get brighter and the evenings get longer, we welcome a host of summer visitors to Wales. Whilst some migratory birds will head towards their usual nesting sites, swifts in Cardiff Bay will be welcomed by a tower of new family homes.

Providing 90 new nest sites for swifts to return to each year, the swift tower on Cardiff Bay Barrage is a flagship example of giving swifts a home in the city. Designed by Polish architects Menthol, the tower has been installed as part of a partnership project delivered by RSPB Cymru, Glamorgan Bird Club and Cardiff Council’s Harbour Authority. The project is funded through the generous support of the The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

As well as providing much needed safe and secure nest sites for swifts, the tower will be monitored by Cardiff Swift Surveyor Volunteers. Free public events and activities will also be delivered on the barrage throughout the summer to help people spot and identify swifts in the Bay and discover more about how we can help them.

If swift populations continue to decline at the current rate, we might lose them as a breeding bird in Wales within the next 20 years. Since 1995, a decline of 69% has been seen in swift numbers in Wales.

Although they spend 90% of their lives on the wing, swifts like to nest high up on top of buildings and spaces under the eaves of old houses and churches. Due to modernisation and building redevelopment within our towns and cities, these nooks and crannies are disappearing, which is one of the major causes for their population decline.

As swifts complete their epic 6,000-mile migration from Africa in early May they only stay around long enough to breed. Swifts need warm weather to provide a constant supply of flying insects, so they spend only about three months in Wales each year.

They will then migrate through France and Spain to spend their winter in Africa, south of the Sahara, where they follow the rains to take advantage of rapid changes in insect populations. While many immature birds return to their breeding grounds in the spring - some will remain in Africa.

Image: swift, Ben Andrew rspb-images.com

Whilst swifts spend their summer in Wales, you could help them. Why not put up a swift nestbox in the eaves of your house? Or if you’ve seen a swift, let us know by inputting your sighting to the RSPB Swift Survey. Through this survey we’re building up a record of where swifts are seen in Cardiff so that we can better protect them. Or perhaps if you’re based in the area and have an hour or two to spare each month, you could also become a Cardiff Swift Surveyor helping to monitor swift nest sites around Cardiff from May to July.

For more information or details on how you can get involved please contact jazz.austin@rspb.org.uk

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