Eco-homes could threaten bird species future

Green-minded householders insulating or renovating their homes to save energy could be contributing unwittingly to the decline of swifts.

Results from the first year of a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) data collection exercise show the declining bird species prefers older buildings to nest and could be at risk from eco-upgrades such as insulation.

Sarah Niemann, RSPB species recovery officer, said: "It is a really good thing people are making their houses more energy efficient because that is reducing some of the climate change impacts.

"The problem is that is means it can make it much more difficult for swifts to get in."

Residents can work on their homes without disturbing swifts and can preserve their nesting spots, she says.

Swift numbers have declined by about a fifth over the past ten years according to the RSPB but householders can help safeguard their future.

The charity invited volunteers to report sightings of swift nests so it can focus efforts to halt the decline.

Almost all swifts recorded were found nesting on buildings and over three quarters of them (77%) in houses.

Of those houses, more than half (51%) were built before 1919 and a quarter between 1919 and 1944.

Almost five per cent of nests were found in churches. The RSPB says this proves ideal old buildings are ideal as swift nesting sites and that homes and business owners, builders and developers can help protect the species
Emma Teuten, RSPB data management officer, said: "The results will enable us to do even more positive work to halt the decline of the swift and enthuse people to help the swift such as those who actually have them living close by or may be planning that could affect existing nest sites.

"These are birds that don't touch down for two years or more after they first leave the nest.

"We need to ensure they have a safe, secure nest site to settle in when they come down to breed themselves.

"Swifts are very site faithful, so once they move in, then the same site may be used for many, many years."

The RSPB says householders should carry out any work on homes before swifts arrive in mid-May or after they leave in mid-August.

For the full swift inventory results click here.

David Gibbs


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