We installed our first Swift nest boxes at St. Anne’s Primary School on Fair Green in early 2020. Together with Birdwatch Ireland Meath we installed four Swift boxes and a caller system on the school’s facade with the hope of attracting twelve pairs of teenage Swifts to the site next summer.
Each May Swifts return to Navan after spending the winter in Africa. Swifts, as their name suggests, are super fast birds travelling at a top speed over 110km per hour with tracking studies revealing one Swift taking just five days to travel the 5,000km home. They eat all types of insects such as aphids, mosquitoes, small beetles and hoverflies while flying. They leave their mouth open just like a basking shark and hoover up thousands of insects as they fly. Mature Swift couples use the same nesting site, year after year and it is hoped that these new boxes will be attractive to the younger birds in search of a suitable neighbourhood to begin a new family.
How to spot a Swift?
People often get confused between the Swift, Swallow, House Martin, and Sand Martin. While Swifts do resemble these birds, they’re actually not related to any of them. The Swift is a member of the hummingbird family. Once you know what you’re looking for Swifts are easy to spot on a summer’s evening around dusk or early in the morning as they leave the nest in search of breakfast. You'll never see them perching, they tend to fly in groups, and make themselves heard with a loud screaming sound as they near their nests.
Why put up Swift boxes?
Our Irish Swift population is declining rapidly due to a lack of suitable cavities in modern buildings, because of roof repairs and building renovations, and impacts from climate change and falling numbers of insects for food. The bird is currently red-listed, meaning it is of high conservation concern in Ireland and across Europe. “Installing nest boxes to support existing colonies of birds are the best way to help prevent a further decline,” says Terrence Cassidy of BWI Meath Branch. “This a great site in the centre of Navan town for 12 pairs of Swifts, which will be an invaluable support to the Swifts who make Navan their home.”
Want to get involved?
Whether you'd like to just learn more about these fascinating birds, install your own swift boxes or simply donate to this worthy project please reach out. We'd love to connect you with our Wild About Navan wildlife expert.
Lynda Huxley Swift conservation expert launched our inaugural speaker series on 14 April 2021. View her talk here.