Swift nest boxes in Deslisles church roof

A juvenile Swift from one of the boxes
A juvenile Swift from one of the boxes. Adults lack the 'scaly' look and appear all brown. Swifts are amazing birds - the oldest bird recorded is over 20 years and they spend 8-9 months a year on the wing

For several years, a few pairs of Swifts had been breeding in the loft of the Delisles Church schoolroom, obtaining entry through small spaces behind the gutters. In 1999, the roof of the building was replaced and made 'birdproof' as a result. The church contacted the UK Swift group for information about the birds and sought advice from Tim Earl, who suggested asking La Société for help.

After a site visit, Vic Froome was confident that the new roof could be made 'Swift friendly' by drilling small entry holes under the eaves and installing sealed nest boxes on the wall plate. Early in 2000, Vic made up 10 boxes, each with two nest chambers, and took a team of volunteers, drills and hammers into the loft space to fit them. We then waited for the Swifts to return in May - the birds had not landed at all since leaving the church in the previous year!.

During the summer, Swifts were indeed present in the air over the church and were seen to enter the roof on regular occasions. There was a minor setback when some birds had found a different entry point to the loft left by the roofers and, having become disorientated, had died. This hole was blocked and the advantage in having Vic's closed boxes was clearly shown. When the birds left Guernsey in late summer, the boxes were examined to check how successful the project had been. Although it takes a few years for the Swifts to fully re-establish a colony, it was very pleasing to discover that five compartments had nests in them, and several others contained nesting material such as feathers and dried grass which the birds had collected on the wing. There are now 2 10-box compartments and 6-8 compartments are occupied each year. Other compartments have sparrow nests - its not just Swifts that like to nest in buildings!

Numbers of Swifts ringed each year at Delisles Church


Since the boxes were installed they have been checked annually and chicks and adults have been ringed with a small numbered aluminum ring by qualified and licensed bird ringers from the Channel Island's Bird Ringing Scheme. They have been a great success and over fifty birds have been ringed. Swifts are declining across Europe, mostly because of the sealing up of roofs and enlightened schemes such as this will reduce the risk of their extinction on the island. The boxes are designed to keep the roof wind and weatherproof, and have been successful in doing so.

It is hoped that the owners of other suitable buildings, particularly in St Peter Port, can be persuaded to install more nest boxes to help slow the loss of this wonderful species. If you have Swifts, or think you might have and would like further information about Swift nest boxes, please telephone Jamie Hooper at 266924.

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Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1UG, Channel Islands.