Friday, 30 March 2012

Swifts nesting in an open roof space

Written by Dick

This is an interesting story which could have some implications for colony nest-box design. [Photos by Colin Smale ( any image to see them at a larger size. ]

The first three doors this end of the cottages
were empty dwellings © Colin Smale

Back in 1982, Colin Smale was studying a Swift colony in an old house in Lincolnshire. He estimated that some 30 pairs of Swifts nested there, but, as so often happens, the colony has long since been destroyed by roof renovations.

Eggs in adjacent nests © Colin Smale
There was a long row of nests, all on one level under the eaves, with little or no barrier between adjacent nests. Colin noticed that the numbers of eggs in the nests fluctuated up and down, as if the birds were moving eggs between nests, though he never actually observed birds carrying eggs.

Young Swifts in adjacent nests © Colin Smale
On 13th July 1982, he found that young Swifts were moving from one nest to another, some of which contained an infertile egg, so such nests would appear to not have failed. Also he often saw young Swifts doing push up exercises in preparation for fledging.

A fledgling Swift exercises © Colin Smale
The life of colonial Swifts is perhaps more complicated than we thought, and these observations may have implications for the internal design of colony nest-boxes.

In Colin's colony, it seems as though breeding adults could see each other, but the distance between the nests was approximately 2 feet (600mm).  Possibly the roof joists are just sufficient to keep them visually separated.

In a colony box, normally the nesting compartments are completely separated from one another, but is this necessarily the best thing to do? Should one separate nesting places by partitions, which stop short of the top of the box? So the birds would not be able to see each other, but any Swift screaming in one box would certainly cause sound to emerge from the entrance of an adjacent box, which could attract birds into that box.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Swift boxes at Belfast Zoo

Here is a novel idea to attract Swifts - make them feel as if they are in Africa!

Contributed by Gayle Turley

Over the past ten years, Belfast Zoo has played an active role in native species conservation in Northern Ireland. Although swifts are regularly seen within the grounds of the zoo, there have never been any known nesting sites.
Schwegler 16s nest-boxes in the Giraffe enclosure

We are keen to change this and, after taking advice from a local enthusiast, we decided to go forward with a plan to attract the swifts to nest in the zoo for the first time. We ordered Schwegler No.16s boxes, 5 in total, and set about finding a suitable position to place them. We found that the side of our giraffe house was an ideal height and a perfect location to place the boxes. As the boxes are in the giraffe enclosure, extra care was taken to ensure they were high enough to be out of the giraffe’s reach! We plan to start playing a swift attraction CD from the end of April to increase our chances of attracting swifts to nest in the zoo.

We will also be placing educational signs in that area of the zoo, explaining to visitors what the nest boxes are for, why they are needed and hopefully raising awareness for the plight of the swift and encouraging others to put up nesting boxes.

For more information:

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wailing Wall welcome ceremony for returning Swifts

When this hit the news, we thought it worth highlighting and summarising here. As Jerusalem, is much further south and east, Swifts arrive in March, 2 months earlier than our birds, so they have already welcomed their birds back.  

Contributed by Jake

We all know that moment of joy when we welcome our returning Swifts, but in Jerusalem the welcome is huge, formal and very well organised. Every year, a ceremony takes place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where there is a breeding colony of Swifts.

Announcing the welcoming event
The proceedings are led by the Mayor and other local dignatories, together with Swift specialists like Dr. Yossi Leshem, from the Tel-Aviv University and Society for the Protection of Nature and Amnonn Hahn, General Manager of “FRIENDS OF THE SWIFTS” Association.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem is of great historical and religious significance.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

American Black Swift wintering grounds discovered

We thought that this story of the American Black Swift Cypseloides niger is so amazing, that we are putting a link to it here
To quote from the article:

"It was one of the last North American bird species to be described to science, in 1857.  Its nest was not found until 1901.  The first audio recording of its voice was not made until 1993.  And every summer, across most of its breeding range, it is the last species to arrive from the south, often not appearing until the end of June. But most remarkably of all, it was the only North American migratory bird to enter the 21st century with the location of its wintering grounds still a complete mystery."

Here on the left are the maps produced of the wintering range of 3 birds and their return spring migration route.

We look forward to seeing equivalent results from geolocator tracking of European Swifts.

Read more here