Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma 

To celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of the Cardiff Bay swift tower, we invited Alan Rosney of the Glamorgan Bird Club to write about that momentous occasion!


Swifts are in trouble. It is anticipated that this bird will be added to the red list in the near future. The red list is a list of the highest conservation priority with species needing urgent action - and as swift numbers have plummeted, with current losses around 5% per annum, its addition sadly seems inevitable. If this decline continues, we could lose the swift as a breeding species within the next 30 years.

Around five years ago, talks took place between Glamorgan Bird Club and RSPB Cymru, as to how we could help this iconic species recover. The result of these talks was that we submitted a grant bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a swift tower on the Cardiff Bay Barrage. The Cardiff Harbour Authority generously provided some funds as well and set aside a piece of land for the erection of the tower. The barrage was thought a good site as swifts use the bay for feeding and there are already a few pairs in the locality.

Swift towers are not a new idea. They were relatively common in Italy in medieval times. However, their purpose was not altruistic - swifts are apparently quite tasty. The modern idea is all about conservation. The towers could replace the nesting sites that are currently being lost. Swifts nest in cavities in walls and roofs, and spaces like these are disappearing due to modern building redevelopments.

The hope is that swifts will take to nesting in towers, as has been the case with the purple martin in the United States. In recent years, several towers have been erected in continental Europe with some success. Our preferred design came from Polish architects, Menthol and the ‘Y’ shape of the tower represents a bird wing.

With a successful bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the tower was delivered and erected on May 16, 2019. The launch was attended by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Dianne Rees and the Senedd swift champion, Jenny Rathbone, plus representatives from Glamorgan Bird Club, RSPB Cymru and the Cardiff Harbour Authority.

The tower is fitted with a swift attraction call to entice birds to inspect the nest boxes, which is90 in total. We weren’t expecting swifts to use the tower for a couple of years, as pairs are site faithful and it is only likely to be youngsters that might be attracted to the tower and they do not breed until they are at least three or four years old. Swifts were observed approaching the tower in 2019 (sadly, no monitoring was undertaken in 2020 due to Covid restrictions) and we are eagerly anticipating the 2021 breeding season.

In conjunction with the erection of the tower, we have been undertaking a Cardiff wide survey to assess the numbers of swifts that we have in the city. The picture isn’t great. Swifts tend to prefer older buildings and as areas of the city are refurbished, the nest sites are being lost. By far the greatest concentration of swifts is in the Ely area, where a summer visit should provide the spectacle of swifts screaming overhead – the sound of summer.

You can do your bit for the swifts of Cardiff by helping us record and protect swift nesting sites by using swift mapper

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