Swifts will need new homes in Skibbereen soon so Men’s Sheds are investigating how to make some.
Here is some handy advice from Bristol.
“Swifts take quite readily to artificial nest boxes; however there are a few general tips worth taking into account before you start to install your own. Firstly it’s a great help to have swifts nesting nearby or at the very least swifts that fly high overhead. If you do then you are half way there. Unfortunately if you haven’t then it could be difficult to attract swifts, but not impossible. Secondly, If you know you have swifts nesting already around your house, try and install your new boxes as close to them as possible. It also helps if the entrance hole is a similar shape and angle as the natural hole, for example if your swifts enter via a downwards facing entrance hole install boxes with the same aspect. Likewise if your swifts fly straight in without landing momentarily, fit boxes with their entrances on the front without a landing strip. For more help on how to locate natural swift nest sites see Bristol Swift Survey 2016.
The nest box ideally should be at least 5 metres above the ground, although swifts have been known to nest as low as 1.5 metres. The nest box can be fitted to any aspect, however if fitted on the south side precaution should be taken to avoid the mid-day sun (maybe by painting it a light colour).Most importantly, take care when putting it up and don’t take any risks on a ladder – please read Swift Conservation website ‘Fitting nest box safety guidelines’ and Ladder Safety.
The flight path into the nest box should be free from nearby obstacles such as trees or wires. Finally a sound system located next to the nest box playing swift attraction calls really helps attract swifts. Play the calls as loud as you can without annoying your neighbours – read details of When to play Swift Calls CD/mp3 at bottom of page.
I have been making and adapting my swift box designs for the last 10 years. I found that my designs with a bottom entrance have the highest occupancy rate. All my boxes (except for the shoebox design) are made to fit under soffits which are less than 150mm deep. The shoebox design is for soffits over 200mm deep. My most successful design, the twin box is quite heavy and awkward to handle, so I would recommend two people install it. This is the main reason behind my recent single box designs in 2015 and 2016, which retain all the good points of my twin box design but are much lighter to handle.
In 2015 I included a couple of new designs which are easier to make and a lot cheaper, costing less than £10 per box. They are both made to fit under wooden soffits less than 150mm deep. The ‘Zeist’ box has a front entrance and has been around for many years, whilst my ‘single compartment box’ is just a smaller version of my twin box design with a bottom entrance and landing strip. My 2016 ‘shoebox’ and corner box designs are specifically for use under deep soffits, which are over 200mm and are currently being trialled.
All of my designs are fixed using top brackets on either side of the box. To help support them even more securely, a third bracket can be attached underneath the box and fastened to the outside wall. I would recommend this for the 2015 single box and twin box.
Internal Swift bricks
The key to the long term security of swifts in the UK is to encourage the building industry to incorporate swift bricks into the walls of new builds on a regular basis. It’s already started to happen on some building sites, but a lot more still needs to be done. The beauty of these boxes is once they are installed there’s no need for any future maintenance unlike external nest boxes. So if you’re thinking of building a new house or planning major building refurbishment then internal swifts boxes should be considered. There are lots of commercial swift bricks available to choose from which should suit every type of new building or extension, as seen on the BBC’s Countryfile on Sunday 5th March (44 minutes in).
Trial swift boxes for 2017 with black interiors
Swifts seem to prefer to nest in as dark a recess as possible, actively seeking out places which seem pitch black to us. So I have painted the interiors in 3 of my boxes black to trial in 2017. I’ve chosen my “smaller box” designs as historically they only have a 30% occupancy rate compared to my longer boxes which have an occupancy rate closer to 70%. Although these smaller boxes are regularly visited by prospecting swifts they are rarely used as nest sites. I’ve wondered if this is because they are too bright inside compared to my longer boxes. So in readiness for the 2017 season I have painted the interiors of 2 corner boxes and 1 Zeist box black, using a matt black emulsion. For comparison 3 similar boxes have been left unpainted.”