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Our landlord is re-roofing the buildings on our street, how do I preserve swift nesting sites? We don't get as many swifts as we used to.

Sent in by Dick Hill, Swannington, Norfolk

Swifts are amazing birds providing a fantastic display during the summer months. It is certainly wonderful to hear them screaming through the skies and they are the most aerial of all bird species, being unable to walk or even stand. They really only leave the skies to breed, being true masters of the air.

Loss of habitat

Sadly, their numbers are dropping, and the main reason for this is the loss of their traditional nest sites. Their favoured sites include roof spaces in houses but when repairs are carried out, or plastic fascias fitted, then these are lost.

Ideally, a small entrance hole should be left so that they can still gain access to the existing nesting chamber, or a nestbox can be fitted within the roof. Special swift nesting bricks are available which can be incorporated high up, into a wall, on new builds. Swifts are very clean birds so little or no maintenance is required. 

Custom made nestsites

If none of this is possible then nestboxes can be fitted to outside walls, but need to be high up, in a shady spot, ideally facing north to east.

These swifts will return next spring and attempt to reclaim their nest sites.  If these have disappeared then they will be looking for alternatives so ought to soon spot any nestboxes but you can buy CDs of their calls to tempt them to new places nearby.

Bird guide