Bring Swifts back to Bristol
This is a proposal that will cost Bristol City Council & local tax payers nothing, but will help combat the decline in the UK’s breeding population of swifts. At European Green Capital 2015, let’s set an example to other British cities & challenge them to do better than Bristol!
Swifts are amazing!
Swifts are migratory birds that breed in Europe in summer. British swifts fly over 14,000 miles each year, leaving the UK in early August for Equatorial & Southern Africa, where their feeding grounds are, and returning in early May.
The numbers of birds nesting in the UK has shown a dramatic decline over the last decades, by as much as 50% in the last decade alone, & is still declining.
They are extraordinary & fascinating birds, as the only time they land is when they are breeding. Everything else, even sleeping, is done on the wing. They have been recorded as living up to 18 years. They are the fastest bird in level flight – only the peregrine falcon is faster, & that’s only when diving – having been recorded at reaching speeds of over 110km/hour (around 70 mph). They appear to close down half of their brain to “sleep” while on the wing. Research has found that they can fly to altitudes of an amazing 10,000 feet at night time, & can also navigate through different wind speeds while sleeping, automatically adjusting their flight to stay on a specific course. Wow!
Having once been quite common, these amazing birds are being squeezed out of Britain. Not only is this a conservation issue, their loss deprives us of the thrill of watching their aerial acrobatics & hearing their calls – the call that in May announces the coming of summer. We also lose the services they provide us – they eat large numbers of insects like mosquitoes!
Why are swifts declining?
There may be many reasons, but certainly the loss of nesting sites is certainly one.
Swifts used to be cave, cliff & tree-hole dwellers, but at some point – it’s thought in Roman times – the swifts changed their behaviour & started to nest under the roofs & eaves of our buildings. But now, because buildings are designed to be airtight & older buildings are being converted to make them so, nesting sites for them are disappearing.
We have happliy co-existed with them nesting under the eaves & roof spaces of our buildings for centuries. But now, through thoughtlessness alone, we are causing their numbers to plummet. It doesn’t have to be this way!
So what’s the idea?
No, it doesn’t have to be this way, & it doesn’t take much to change it. We can retrofit nesting boxes to our homes (http://www.swift-conservation.org/ has lots of advice) but better still, we can create new nesting sites in all new buildings simply by putting some special bricks in the walls, called swift bricks, in place of ordinary ones. This is being done with success elsewhere in Europe, & here too, but we need to step up our efforts.
I therefore propose a new bye-law that all new buildings in Bristol are required to make nesting provision for swifts by the simple expedient of installing swift bricks. The trivial cost of this would be borne by developers & so would not cost the Council a penny.
Where developers are converting older properties, the same requirement should also apply. As part of the process of gaining planning permission for new build and conversions, developers should also be asked to work with local organisations such as churches, whose spires can often be retrofitted with swift boxes. A church spire has been successfully made swift-friendly in Reading. (http://www.swift-conservation.org/OurProjects.htm). If developers fund such collaborations, with the help of volunteers from the local community to do the work, there’s no reason we can’t improve things for the swift in Bristol.
Why the contribution is important
This is important, not just to halt the decline of the swift, but to help to restore its numbers.
The world is fast losing its biodiversity. Quite often, it isn’t easy to see what can be done to halt species extinctions. But in this case, we can make a difference, by a simple, tiny change which is working elsewhere. Its cost to developers would be trivial, & far from conflicting with human interests, it enhances our environment, provides pleasure to us, & helps in the control of pesky mosquitoes!
As European Green Capital 2015, it is a good opportunity for Bristol to show its commitment to biodiversity that won’t cost tax payers anything.
by user412750 on December 20, 2013 at 09:59AM