RSPB NI searches for swift surveyors

Swift. Picture: Steve Blain
Swift. Picture: Steve Blain

Any day now some special summer visitors will be winging their way to Northern Ireland.

Swifts have endured an exhausting 6,000 mile trip from Africa and can’t wait to rest, refuel and romance.

These amazing birds arrive in the UK and Ireland from late April to feed and breed and with their excited screaming calls and acrobatic manoeuvres, they are wonderful to watch.

They weigh just 40g and spend their entire life on the wing until they are old enough to breed, usually at four years of age.

Sadly, swifts are declining at a rapid rate. Although the exact reasons are not clear, the loss of nesting sites through building improvement or demolition is thought to play a part.

They are now an amber-listed species in Ireland (of medium conservation concern) as their breeding population has plummeted by more than a quarter over the past 25 years.

It’s important we know where swifts are nesting to help protect them. This summer RSPB NI will be surveying in south Belfast to try and find the nest sites of this charismatic urban species.

The charity aims to cover at least 20 survey squares within south Belfast to determine the exact location of nest sites within this important part of the city.

This information will help them influence planning authorities and architects who are undertaking work within the area, to ensure swifts have places to return to each year and raise their young.

In previous years volunteers have undertaken the vast majority of the survey work and for 2016 RSPB NI is again looking for some extra help to carry out this important work.

Training, in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, will be held from 5pm to 7pm on Thursday 28 April in the Lanyon Building. Surveys will run from the end of May to the end of July.

To attend the training, please contact Philip.Carson@rspb.org.uk or call 028 9049 1547 during office hours.

RSPB NI is also asking people to look to the skies and record sightings of this lovely bird.

Low-flying screaming swifts can indicate that a breeding colony is close by, so if you spot this behaviour please add your records to the Swift Inventory at rspb.org.uk/applications/swiftsurvey.