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We have a swifts' nest up in the gable end of our house. Half the nest broke and fell to the floor. Should I remove the rest or will the swifts rebuild it?

Sent in by Daniel Burnett, Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Since swifts nest in cavities within the roof space, you would not be able to see a swift's nest from the outside. What you have in the gable end of your house will be a house martin nest. 

House martins build mud nests on the outside of buildings under an overhang; eaves with an open aspect that allows the birds to fly uninterrupted into the nest are favourite nesting sites.

I think it is best if you leave the remains of the nest where they are, and let the birds themselves do whatever DIY work they feel appropriate. We have had a very dry spring, and when the birds return from their migration, they will have a hard job finding mud to rebuild their nest.

In dry conditions like this, river banks and pond edges are popular sources of mud for the birds. If such sources are not available with about half a mile from you, the best way you can help your martins is to provide them with a muddy patch in your garden from where they can get the building materials.

This muddy patch can be a piece of soil you water to keep it wet, a wet area of soil at the edge of a garden pond, or even a plant drip tray or a dustbin lid with muddy wet soil in it. Hopefully the house martins will find it, and make good use of your offerings.

Since many other garden birds, including blackbirds, use mud in nest building, your muddy patch could be more popular than you might at first think.

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