Swifts and House Martins - do they make good neighbours?

About thirty years ago, having done some restoration work on my house, Starlings moved in and nested. They were turfed out about twenty years ago by House Martins and about eight years ago Swifts have turfed out the House Martins! All of these birds nested on the soffit board, behind the fascia board of my north-west facing gable end. We love watching the swifts fly in at high speed to feed their young and now have three nests. However, we also loved the House Martins (not forgetting the poor Starlings!). I have a north east facing gable end to the roof, which might accommodate House Martin nests and I have thought about making or buying nests to encourage them. They would be located about three to four meters away from the gable with the Swifts. Is this a good idea or am I likely to lose the Swifts or fail to attract the House Martins? We are located about half a kilometer from an estuary that provides a great feeding area for them with clouds of midges. Fortunately, Swallows also nest in a neighbouring barn and perch on our TV aerial so leisurely bird watching is a regular pastime for us at this time of year!
  • Hello Forum Members.  I was surprised that no experts could answer this one for me but luckily I found a helpful person at the British Trust for Ornithology who was able to give me some guidance.  The BTO guy saw no competition issues arising from Swifts and House Martins having nests in fairly close proximity so I'm going to try and encourage House Martins to nest next year by putting up some nests and possibly using a broadcast sound recording.

  • In reply to Aidan W:

    Hi Aidan, sorry to read that your question was unanswered & I have no knowledge to pass on either but just wish to say that I'm pleased you've had help from BOT (use their site info, especially vids, myself often!)

    Maybe you'll be good enough to keep us updated with your progress in installing nestboxes for both species & any success you may have!

     

     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • In reply to WendyBartter:

    Hi Aidan,

    I just saw the post myself. I couldn't have answered anyway but would love to know how your project develops. We live in Manchester and I can't see swifts moving in our area (they are much better off down the river where there is plenty of food for them) but would love to encourage house martins if we could.

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir

  • In reply to Marina P:

    Hello Marina P,

    I'm no expert but really value the sight of Swallows and House Martins and the, apparently not so closely related, Swifts around our house.  I think that all of these birds feed on flying insects so a local source of food is very important for attracting them, as well as a suitable nest site.  I don't know what their feeding range is but the House Martins in our village will certainly travel up to about a mile to the estuary to feed.  We are in south-east Devon.

    Having lived in Salford for six years, in the late seventies and early eighties, I know that the River Irwell was beginning to have improved water quality so hopefully is beginning to provide an abundant food source.

    I'm going to put up House Martin nests (either bought or home-made!) this autumn, once the danger of disturbing our Swifts has gone.  I think that broadcasting a House Martin bird call helps as well!  We may even try and include a small CCTV system if I can find an affordable one.

  • In reply to Aidan W:

    I'm glad you managed to get some help Aidan, sometimes it is so busy on the forum that posts tend to slip away unanswered.   I hope you can put up some House Martin nests and manage to encourage them to come in next year, would be good to be able to see your footage if you get any.

    Lot to learn

  • In reply to Aidan W:

    Aidan W said:
    I don't know what their feeding range is but the House Martins in our village will certainly travel up to about a mile to the estuary to feed.  We are in south-east Devon.

    Thanks for this - in this case we stand a chance! We live pretty close to Sale water park and the river runs about half a mile behind our home so the swifts may consider us! This year in particular they have been very prominent, flying over the neighbourhood and our back garden, unlike previous years.

    We just got a starling nest to put up in Autumn so I think a house martin one may be in order too. Keep us posted here how the swift / house martin neighbouring works with you - if it does work a swift nest will be my next project!

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir