Huntly & District Swift Group

“They’ve made it again, which means the globe’s still working” – Ted Hughes

Swifts and the Urban Environment

Swifts are incredible, masters of the sky that arrive from Africa in early May to breed and leave us by the end of August.  Their ‘screaming parties’ and breath-taking aerobatics are a sign for many that summer is finally here.

Now classified as endangered, the Common Swift, is an urban bird that nests in our buildings.  Accessing buildings via small gaps in the pointing, under loose slates and even in holes behind down-pipes, they make little noise and no mess.  Building repairs mean active nest sites are being lost and swifts, being loyal to their nest site for their breeding life, struggle to relocate.  We are unwittingly excluding them from their homes and consequently swift populations have halved over the last 20 years.

The most important way to help swifts is to retain their natural nest sites within buildings. The optimum time to survey for nest sites is May – July.  Once we locate nest sites we record them with NESBReC, so this information can be used in the planning process.  Most home repairs are carried out during the summer months with disastrous consequences for swifts as their nesting sites cannot be seen.  Our volunteers are more than happy to carry out a swift survey or offer advice on what to look out for.  Equally we work alongside developers and offer surveys and advice on installing swift bricks, an inexpensive and simple provision.

I formed Huntly & District Swift Group in 2017 to address the decline in Common Swift numbers. The group’s activities include:

  • Engaging local communities across the North East with power-point presentations and fundraising events
  • School visits – Swift talks and fun activities
  • Conducting swift surveys to build a database of active nest sites
  • Advising local authorities on swift bricks in new-build developments and retention of known nest sites
  • Advising the building trade how to spot swift sites and safely continue repairs

Actions you can take to help the swifts in your area

Volunteer with us to survey your local patch during June and July
Tell us if you know of swifts in your area
Attend one of our swift events
Keep informed and join our Facebook group
Put up a swift nest box. Boxes are available for a donation

Email us with any questions at

Cally Smith

Founder at Huntly & District Swift Group