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Saving Ealing’s swifts

A project launched by the Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) is giving swifts, an acrobatic summer visitor to our skies, vital support over the breeding season and aiming to help address a worrying decline nationally.

The Save Ealing Swifts campaign is working to install 150 artificial nesting boxes designed specifically for swifts on suitable buildings across the borough, typically where these birds choose to raise their young.

The campaign has been hugely successful in gathering support from local people via the crowdfunding website Spacehive and has also benefitted from the council’s Future Ealing Fund.

Sean McCormack, founder of the Ealing Wildlife Group explains that even though swifts spend only a few months a year in the UK, we need to act to save this iconic bird and ensure that its familiar screeching calls continue to be heard every summer, long into the future.

“Swifts are a migrant species of bird that comes here all the way from Africa, but they are massively in decline – they have just been red-listed, which means they are of the highest conservation, because their numbers are frankly plummeting,” says Sean.

“One of the reasons for this is because they are losing their nest spaces in our eaves and in our buildings – they are a very unproblematic visitor and do not make any mess. They have a lovely call – one of the sounds of summer and many people would probably recognise it, even if they are not aware it is a swift.  

“Unfortunately though, when we are renovating our roof spaces or doing loft conversions, often they are losing the little spaces they need, which has an effect on the population over time.”

The good news is that these declines can be reversed by providing them with these specially designed artificial nest boxes, to replace the traditional eaves that have been lost.

Sean adds: “The nest boxes are designed out of timber and woodcrete to be strong and durable and installed up in the eaves or roof spaces of a building – they will last for around 20 years and there is a small entrance hole underneath specifically designed for swifts to use.”

Community support proving ‘vital’

As part of the Save Ealing Swifts campaign, the EWG is using technology to both attract swifts to the preferred nest sites using recorded calls, and to monitor and collect data that will provide valuable information for the future conservation of the bird.

The project is focusing on installing nest boxes on schools and public buildings to educate children and local communities about our impact on biodiversity and how nature conservation can help our threatened wildlife.

Members of the Ealing Wildlife Group with some of the swift nestboxes

Sean continues: “We have raised a huge amount of money through crowdfunding and matchfunding from Ealing Council and we are now in the process of finding suitable buildings to put our nest boxes on.

“Swifts are master aerialists – they only ever really land to nest and spend literally all their other time on the wing and they are incredibly charismatic and enigmatic.

“We want to involve schools and local people because the more people that are inspired by these wonderful birds, the better chance we have of helping them flourish in the borough.

“If we can put up these boxes on local buildings, that will be 150 extra nesting sites for the borough’s swifts for the next 20 or 30 years. That could have a hugely positive impact on our local population in the long-term.”

Visit the EWG’s website for the latest news on the project and to get involved.

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