The Swifts Have Arrived in West Berkshire

Where swifts spend their time

Swifts need warm weather to provide a constant supply of flying insects, so they spend only about three months in the UK each year. They arrive from central Africa in early May and make their nests of straw and saliva in church towers and other tall buildings.

The oldest ringed bird lived for at least 21 years. … These birds sometimes occupy a nesthole and may even attempt to build a nest. However, they are unlikely to nest successfully until they are four years old. Swifts pair for life, meeting up each spring at the same nest site.

Swift Survey
The RSPB do an annual swift survey. Records in 2014 were considerably lower than before in Berkshire and across the country, perhaps due to development pressure.  This record set is important for Swift Conservation and others to encourage developers to install swift boxes in suitable areas and challenge damaging developments. Swifts will use artificial nest sites if located correctly and the cost to developers is tiny.  Recording is easy to do: just one record per site a year. Please help by going to to the RSPB’s Swift Survey page to  record sightings of:
a. Definite nest sites where you have seen swifts going into cracks in buildings
b. Screaming parties: groups of swifts flying at roof level noisily
c. Missing nest sites: places where you used to see swifts, but not any longer.

Get some top tips for identifying our summer visitors – swifts, swallows, house and sand martins.


Nearly always on the wing, the arrow-like swift is a familiar sight on a summer’s evening, wheeling around the sky in groups. It mainly nests in older buildings, where it can gain access to nest sites via small holes below the eaves or under tiles.


Look out for the swallow performing great aerial feats as it catches its insect-prey on the wing. You may also see it perching on a wire, or roosting in a reedbed, as it makes its way back to Africa for the winter.

House Martins

As its name suggests, the house martin can be spotted nesting in the eaves of houses in our towns and villages. Its intricate mud nests take days to build and are often returned to and used in following years.

The Sand Martin

The tiny, brown-and-white sand martin is a common summer visitor to the UK, nesting in colonies on rivers, lakes and flooded gravel pits. It returns to Africa in winter.

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