All about Swifts in County Wicklow
Every May Swifts arrive in Ireland following a long migration from southern Africa. Slightly larger than a swallow they are a ‘site faithful’ bird, returning generation after generation to buildings in towns and villages to nest and raise young. Like many of our wild species however, Swifts are increasingly threatened through loss of nest sites and have suffered an alarming 40% population decline in the past decade. Problems arise when buildings are renovated or torn down removing the Swifts nest sites and sometimes huge nesting colonies can be lost overnight.
Wicklow County Council through the Heritage Office has been working on practical actions to protect this species in Wicklow. We are surveying swift activity , promoting the creation of new artificial nesting boxes and providing information to increase awareness and appreciation of this species.
A key initial step has been the identification of where the birds have their nests. In 2019 a countywide Swift Survey was initiated and members of the public invited to find out more through talks and workshops and to submit sightings. Thanks to the ready engagement of Tidy Towns groups and enthusiastic individuals, nesting sites were confirmed by local co-ordinator Oran O Sullivan in 17 towns and villages throughout County Wicklow. We are continuing the survey in 2020 and invite sightings and queries to Oran O’Sullivan, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mobile phone 087 2339280
Artificial Swift nestboxes are a successful way of assisting swift populations, particularly when other traditionally used sites in buildings are lost through re development or refurbishment works. Nestbox projects are being undertaken in 2020 in towns such as Arklow, Bray, Greystones, Rathdrum and Wicklow and the Council is focussing on installing boxes in public buildings. In west Wicklow, communities have also embraced the challenge with swift nestbox projects set to begin in Baltinglass, Blessington, Dunlavin and Grangecon.
Saving Swifts Publication
‘Saving Swifts’ produced by Birdwatch Ireland and Local Authority Heritage Officers, contains all the information required for individuals, local groups, schools, businesses or government departments to play a role in helping this amazing and threatened species. Swifts nest in buildings where small gaps allow access to the roof space or cavities in masonry. Their chosen nest sites are often in older buildings which are sometimes dilapidated or in need of renovation. Awareness about the presence and requirements of Swifts is essential to ensuring that their nest sites are protected as part of renovation works. This typically involves timing works to take place from Sept to May. Also, there are many opportunities to create new nesting sites as part of new development through installing nest boxes or nesting bricks. The information is presented in a colourful and user-friendly format and includes details on Swift ecology; reasons for declines; suggested conservation measures; nest box plans, case studies and much more.
‘Saving Swifts’ is available as a PDF to download below, or at www.wicklow.ie website HERE or can be posted to you by contacting Deirdre Burns Heritage Officer on T: 0404 20100 or e mail email@example.com
Members of the public are being asked to contact local co-ordinator Oran O Sullivan Tel: 087 2339280 firstname.lastname@example.org to report sightings. All information for Wicklow will be uploaded to the National Biodiversity Data Centre at www.biodiversityireland.ie .
Access the County Wicklow Swift Survey
The County Wicklow Swift Survey 2019 can be accessed as a pdf below. This project is supported by Wicklow County Council, The Heritage Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service through the National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund.