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Put out a welcome home sign for Swifts

A sure sign (fingers crossed) of better weather will be signalled in the next few weeks by the return of visitors from Africa.

Hardy little swifts will be making their amazing annual trek back to rooftops in Boston, seeking out their traditional nesting sites.

Roof repairs or roof renovation can sometimes block up the nest access.  In many of those cases the disappointed birds will abandon the attempt to breed and migrate south early; one of the reasons why the population is in steep decline. That's a shame for the tiny birds arriving at your address after a non-stop flight of thousands of miles. Some will have crossed the Sahara.

Swifts like to nest in the eaves, under tiles on the brick ends of roofs, in gaps behind fascia boards and in holes in masonry.

You can maintain your property and still keep a welcome sign out for swifts. You can cut a small opening in replacement cornices, or offset the new cornice with battens so the swifts can enter underneath. Facing boards can have small holes cut into them to  let the swifts reach their nests under the roof.

This sort of humane and pragmatic solution costs nothing, You just need to take care to match the entrances with the old ones. Where swifts have nested on the roofing felt under a dislodged tile the nest place can be protected by wedging up the replacement tiles wherever the nest entrances are. The access gap needed by the swifts is just 30mm - less than the thickness of two fingers

Swifts can often be found nesting in gaps in brickwork behind pipes, flashings and gutters. Great care is needed when replacing these items so as not to destroy access. The simplest solution is to keep the holes open and place flashing and pipe brackets so as not to obstruct access.

Try not work on the roof while the swifts are nesting (May to August). Leave existing swift nest places undisturbed by any works. Preserve the swifts' access holes or make new ones to match the old exactly

Any interference with the swifts, their nests or their eggs and chicks is an offence.
It is estimated that swifts fly an average daily total of nearly 500 miles. That's more than 1.24 million miles in a lifetime.
They spend their life almost entirely on the wing and even feed, sleep and mate in flight only landing when nesting. They are good neighbours as they feed exclusively on insects. Parent swifts generate a big bulge in their throats as they collect up to 1,000 insects a time to feed their chicks. They can gather as many as 100,000 insects a day.
They are the fastest birds in level flight, regularly topping almost 70mph.

For more information see our leaflet Roof Repairs & Re-Roofing with Swifts on the borough council's website.

Swifts over rooftops Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window