England’s first ‘Swift City’ takes flight

Swifts flying at low level over rooftops

(RSPB 6 May 2017; Photo Nigel Blake)

• Known for their aerobatic displays over our gardens, swifts fly over 6000 miles from central and southern Africa every year to the UK to nest and raise their young. Although numbers of the migratory bird have almost halved in the past twenty years.
• Ahead of UN World Migratory Bird Day on 10 May, the RSPB has teamed up with nine partners to launch England’s first ‘Swift City’ in Oxford.
• The ambitious two-year project will see current nesting sites protected and more than 300 new sites created throughout the historic city to allow the charismatic bird to thrive.
To help reverse the decline in swift numbers and nesting sites Europe’s biggest conservation charity has teamed up with nine partners to launch England’s first ‘Swift City’ in Oxford.
Every year the enigmatic swift announces the arrival of the British summer as they complete a 6,000 mile migration from central and southern Africa to nest and raise their young in the UK. These iconic species are truly Olympian birds; landing only to breed, they fly up to 500 miles per day often eating, sleeping and even mating in the air. However with falling population numbers there are now less than 87,000 breeding pairs arriving in the UK, down from almost 150,000 (-47%) pairs just two decades ago.
Part of this decline is being linked to a reduction in potential nesting sites – as old buildings are renovated and new ones are built they often don’t include nesting space. The two-year project will see the Oxford Swift City team take a closer look at the city’s swift populations, their nesting sites and important foraging areas, as well as helping local communities take action to help swifts where they live.
To help swift thrive in the historic city, the team will also work with local builders and planners to help protect the areas, buildings and neighbourhoods that we know they travel across the world to make their home, as well as creating a further 300 suitable nesting sites throughout Oxford.