National Nest Box Week 2020

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19 Feb 2020

We’re hoping to boost swift numbers 

This week being National Nest Box Week, we look back on a slightly alternative role that nest boxes play in their purpose which our Reserve Manager, Richard, implemented last year.

With it being reported that breeding swift numbers have plummeted by half in the last 20 years*, Richard installed two nest boxes playing frequent and repeated swift calls in the hopes of attracting the amber-listed species to our reserve.

The boxes on the side of Hootz House, our award winning indoor play, project out swift noises intermittently through a speaker as it is known that swifts, who migrate to the UK to breed from May to September, are attracted by the sounds of their own breed. The calls advertise that there is a nest space, making it an incentive for swifts searching for a suitable nesting site.

Loss of nest sites is one of the reasons for this sharp decline in numbers, with changes in the way that new houses are built being the main cause as swifts do not build their own nests, instead relying on cavities and roof tiling to find suitable nesting habitats.

The birds return from their wintering grounds in Africa to the same spot each year to breed but often return to find that their nest site has gone, or access is blocked due to buildings being sealed up or knocked down.

Richard came up with the idea of installing the boxes last year, saying: Swifts really are a fascinating breed, with swifts even eating, mating and sleeping in the air and flying non-stop for three years after leaving the nest where they hatched. Adding swift call sounds could make all the difference to our biodiversity and unless we help them this iconic species of our summer skies will disappear. We hope that the swifts will be drawn in by the noise, but we don’t yet expect them to breed straight away. Instead we hope that they will return this year as they become aware of Pensthorpe offering a suitable breeding ground.”

As part of our February half term event, we are offering children and families to build their own nest box to take home and put up in their own garden to encourage birds to visit and nest. A member of staff will be on hand to guide you and assist you with the activity. There is a small charge of £5 per nest box, to cover the cost of the materials used and you can book online for this activity. Children must be accompanied by an adult for this activity.

* The 51% decrease in swifts breeding numbers in the UK between 1995 and 2015 has made swifts an amber-listed species.