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Swifts have become a major focus of BirdWatch Ireland’s work in recent years. To assist and inform our conservation activities we carry out and coordinate a number of Swift surveys throughout the country. In addition to our own survey work we invite Swift sightings and nest records from citizen scientists. Records from citizen scientists are very important for informing and directing our conservation efforts.

 

Swift Conservation

Perhaps the most iconic and intriguing of our urban bird species, the Swift Apus apus, is a summer migrant that breeds throughout Europe and much of Asia and winters in southern Africa. However, in recent decades there has been much concern for Swifts as their numbers have been in decline throughout many parts of their range. The recent Bird Atlas 2007-11 shows there has been a substantial loss in range in Ireland since 1970, while the latest Countryside Bird Survey data shows an alarming 39% decline between 1998 and 2013. Reasons for their decline remain unknown, but it is thought that the loss of available nest sites due to the renovations of old buildings and the impacts of climate change could be significant factors.

 

National Swift Survey

 

BirdWatch Ireland has gathered Swift sightings and nest records from citizen scientists around the island of Ireland since 2014. To ensure there is a single national Swift dataset we ask that all casual Swift sightings and nest site records are submitted through the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Swift recording platform. 

 

County Swift Surveys

 

In the summer of 2017 BirdWatch Ireland carried out its first whole-county Swift Survey in County Offaly. During the summer of 2018 we continued this work and surveyed counties, Laois, Westmeath and Tipperary. Although finding, recording and mapping Swift nesting sites is core to these projects we also made focused efforts to get local communities and residents involved in the monitoring but more so in the protection of Swift breeding colonies and nest sites. Together with Offaly County Council we have undertaken follow up measures and community projects to promote the findings or the report and empower local communities to take ownership of and responsibility for their local Swift populations. We have experienced tremendous buy-in throughout the four counties so far surveyed. This summer we will undertake county Swift surveys in counties; Sligo, Meath and Wicklow.

 

Download the Saving Swifts booklet here.