Swifts are a small species of bird that visits Ireland to breed in Spring, arriving in early May and departing as soon as the chicks are fledged usually by early August. They are insectivorous and live life largely in flight and are adapted to feeding, drinking, gathering nest material and mating on the wing (in flight). They nest in cavities in masonry, on gaps in the roof spaces of old buildings gaining access through broken fascia and soffit or under roof tiles. They are site faithful and return to the same nest site year on year. Modern buildings are designed and built to be airtight and in the last 20+ years we have improved our buildings so much that we have left few nesting opportunities for Swifts, we have essentially created a housing problem for Swifts. The loss of existing nest sites coupled with other wider environmental issues including factors caused by climate change has resulted in large declines in Swift populations in Ireland.
In 2019 the Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council, with support from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through the Biodiversity Action Fund, commissioned a swift survey in order to;
- Establish for the first time, a baseline population figure for swifts in the towns and villages of county Wicklow.
- Engage volunteers, community groups and local people to take part in Swift survey work and become aware of Swifts in their locality and vulnerable nesting sites.
- Encourage the development of Swift projects in towns and villages and provide training and advice to the Council, local groups and communities for the implementation of conservation projects and building and installation of Swift boxes and bricks.
In total swifts were identified in 56 towns and villages in Wicklow , with Wicklow Town, Arklow, Rathdrum and Bray hosting the largest sightings. In total 103 nest sites were identified. These were located through field survey and through reporting by members of the public, volunteers, tidy towns groups and interested individuals following community workshops in Bray, Baltinglass and Arklow.
The final report documents the results of the survey and makes a number of recommendations for action that the Council and members of the public can take to safeguard and enhance swift populations in Wicklow. The results of the survey are submitted to the NBDC and can be viewed on a swift map HERE
Read the full report below. For more information contact Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer. T: 0404 20100 firstname.lastname@example.org