Swift Action

Swifts have been recorded flying at almost 70 miles/hour, which makes them the U.K’s fastest bird in level flight. And that isn’t even the most startling fact about them. They can fly 500 miles a day, do everything on the wing, including eating, sleeping and mating, and only land when they’re ready to nest. Swifts catch an incredible 300-1000 flying insects in one go when feeding their young.

Tragically, the population of these amazing birds has plummeted in recent years, due primarily to a lack of suitable places to nest. As traditional nesting sites such as tall old buildings with plenty of nooks and crannies under eaves and in roofs become scarcer, we truly need Swift Action to give them alternatives.

As part of the St Albans Sustfest 2022, Wilderhood Watch has teamed up with Executive BID Manager Alison Berneye, the St Albans District Council and Lead Cllr for Business Mandy McNeil to launch a Swift Action project in our city centre. With the help of Heidi Carruthers from Wilder SA and Tim Hill from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, we have identified suitable sites for 30 nest boxes, including the St Albans Civic Centre.

Permission to install the boxes on the Civic Centre was granted from the district council in record time, which resulted in them installing five nest boxes on May 5th, with another eight due to go up on the 13th. In only the past few days there have been reports of swifts returning to the St Albans area, so it looks like we put them up in the nick of time. Let’s hope the PA systems we’ve attached close by to play swift calls will help the birds find their brand new nests!

Funding for the nest boxes was provided by St Albans BID, and members of Wilderhood Watch paid for the PA systems as well as part of the installation costs. The rest of the installation was funded by the St Albans city council – many thanks to everyone involved in this.

The swift boxes are made out of woodstone (a mixture of wood and concrete), so are extremely long-lasting and breathable. They come with their own mounting plates, screws and plugs, which is just as well as they each weigh 6kg!

The next phase of our project will involve collaborating with St Albans businesses to put up the rest of our nest boxes in time for the next breeding season. We’re hoping this’ll also inspire neighbours to install multiple nest boxes on houses in their streets, making St Albans a prime destination for these truly incredible birds.