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Swifts need a helping hand to boost numbers

By Chris Saunderson

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HOUSEHOLDERS in the north have been urged to support the return of swifts to the area by encouraging them to nest locally.

A swallow in full flight. Picture: Rob Booth
A swallow in full flight. Picture: Rob Booth

Swifts are returning to after an epic 6000-mile journey back to Scotland.

However, they are one of Scotland’s fastest declining birds, with the population crashing by 59 per cent since 1995.

Aberdeenshire Council’s two swift champions - Councillors Ann Ross and Glen Reynolds - are encouraging residents to help provide nesting areas for them.

Cllr Ross said: “We are lucky to have swifts nesting in both urban and rural areas and it is really important that we take action to make sure sites where swifts nests are retained.

“Most modern buildings lack the nooks and crannies swifts need for nest holes so putting up nest boxes for swifts or building swift bricks into new designs is really important. If you have swifts in your local area you could think about putting up boxes to encourage them to nest.”

Swifts are loyal to their nest sites returning year after year to nest in exactly the same spot, so conserving existing colonies is key to their protection. They nest in buildings, preferring old, tall buildings like churches and warehouses but also using blocks of flats and houses.

Nest sites are generally over five metres from the ground. When the birds leave the nest they simply drop into the air from the entrance. Once the young birds leave the nest they can spend two or three years in the air, eating and sleeping on the wing before returning to breed.

Swifts are very good neighbours and do not make any mess on the side of buildings.

Cllr Reynolds is also keen to encourage people to look out for these fantastic birds when out walking.

He added: “They are pretty easy to identify with such a distinctive call and shape and you may see them flying overhead, particularly in the evening when they are gathering to return to nest sites.”

The North East Scotland Biological Records Centre (NESBReC) is keen to receive any records of swift sightings, including records of nesting colonies. Gathering these records will help protect swifts for future generations to enjoy and might also give locals something uplifting to look out for when out and about.

Both the Aberdeenshire swift Champions are also working to ensure swifts are properly considered in planning decisions and that new nesting sites are included in suitable new build proposals.

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