Swifts Update

May’s warm and sunny weather has been perfect for swifts, whose screaming flypasts over their favoured Kidlington haunts have more than ever been a welcome sight in this time of lockdown.

The first swifts arrived in the village at the end of April, and by early to mid-August they’ll be setting off on their long journey back to Africa. Like other migratory birds, the swifts visit England only long enough to nest and rear their young before they return to their overwintering sites across the other side of the world.

Swifts are a joy to watch, as groups of them – anything from three to twenty – jet overhead just above the rooftops or silently circle high in the sky. Often you can hear their distinctive screaming or screeching before you actually see them (dark brown with unmistakable swept-back sickle-shaped wings) in an aerial display of astonishing speed and agility.

Swifts spend their entire lives in the air, only landing to nest, so a bird perched on a telegraph wire or tree or feeding on the ground isn’t a swift!

Where swifts nest
Swifts are fussy about their nest sites. They like holes or crevices in buildings, where they make a nest from airborne collected feathers, straw and other plant debris. Favourite nesting places are high up below fascia boards and guttering, in roof apexes, below tiles, and in holes in brick or stone walls.

The construction and materials of modern or refurbished buildings don’t offer the same nesting opportunities as older buildings, a contributory factor – along with a heavy decline in the insect population – for the halving of swift numbers over the last 20 years.

To help stem this worrying decline, the installation of artificial nest boxes or swift bricks on new or existing buildings is an important part of swift conservation, and many buildings in Kidlington now boast these desirable residences!

Where to see swifts in Kidlington
We’re lucky still to host reasonable swift numbers in Kidlington, where their conservation is promoted by the Kidlington swifts group, part of the Cherwell swifts project supported by Cherwell District Council.

Here are some of the best places to see swifts in the village (early morning and late evening are good times to spot them):

  • School Road
  • Northern Kidlington centred around Marlborough and Park Avenues
  • Green Road and roads off
  • Grovelands, especially The Phelps, Calves Close, and Morton Avenue
  • Church Street and roads off
  • Mill Street and roads off
  • High Street and roads off

Can you help?
We’d love to hear about the whereabouts and numbers of any swifts that you see, and especially the location of any nests that you spot or are lucky enough to have on your house.

To report swift sightings & nests, contact Liz Moore, Kidlington swifts group, at liz3moore@hotmail.com. For information and advice about installing a nest box or brick on your property, contact Chris Mason, Cherwell swifts project, at mason@cando.eclipse.co.uk
More information on swifts can be found on the Swift Conservation and RSPB websites.