RSPB – ‘Homeless swifts need our help’

A major cause of this decline is believed to be the loss of nest sites through building improvement or demolition. They nest almost exclusively on buildings, so the RSPB say they really need your help.

The RSPB is launching a nationwide search to identify where swifts are still seen and could be nesting

Swifts pair for life and return to the same nest site each spring. Their nests are located high up in the roof spaces under the eaves of old buildings in particular, and renovation, repair or demolition work is leaving many of them homeless.

The RSPB is appealing to us all to look out for low-level screaming groups of swifts, a good sign they are breeding nearby, or where we have seen swifts nesting – perhaps entering a roof or hole in the building. Please report any sightings. The best time to look is around dusk on a warm, still evening.

Once they have discovered more about where swifts are found RSPB officers will focus our conservation efforts in areas where they are commonly seen and work with the building industry to help birds in buildings.

Sarah Niemann, RSPB Species Recovery Officer said: “Sharing your house with swifts is a great privilege. They are not obtrusive at all, in fact they make perfect, quiet neighbours. They build their nests right next to the entrance hole so they don’t get into your roof space and they cause no damage.

“The fact they are declining so rapidly is of huge concern to the RSPB, which is why we’re asking people to help us find out where they are so we can focus our efforts in the right place.

“If you see or hear swifts screaming at rooftop level or slipping into holes please tell us!”

Swifts are dark brown but often look black against the sky. Their wings are long and narrow and their tail slightly forked, but not as much as a swallow’s. They have a piercing, screaming call and nest in colonies which makes it appear even louder.

Swifts spend their life almost entirely on the wing and even feed, sleep and mate in flight. They feed exclusively on insects and only come to land when nesting.

They hunt for insects over a wide area and range of habitats from meadows, open water and over woods to the skies above towns and cities. An abundant supply of insects is critical for their survival. Parent swifts collect lots of insects to take back to their chicks – up to 1,000 at once which make a big bulge in their throat. When they have chicks to feed, swifts can gather as many as 100,000 insects a day.

Various voluntary groups are also working with the RSPB on the swift search, including Swift Conservation, Concern for Swifts (Scotland) and Northern Swift Groups.

For more information on how you can help visit the website at

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