The Return of the Johnstown Swifts

The Return of the Johnstown Swifts

High on the wall of the courtyard wall are specially designed nest boxes for swifts. Swifts, like swallows and house martins, arrive in the spring after a long journey from Africa before departing in August (earlier than swallows). Unlike swallows and house martins, swifts never land and continually fly 24 hours a day – they are the fastest bird in the world in level flight!

The only time they land is when they nest. After the young birds have fledged, they make their first migration to Africa and don’t return until here they are at least two years old. They then look for a partner but may not breed and nest for another year or so.

Swifts tend to nest in holes in walls or buildings but modern building regulations mean that potential nesting places for them have dwindled – hence, why we’re trying to give them a helping hand.

Our first swifts took up residence in the far left-hand box (Box 1) in 2013 and produced one chick. In 2014 we believe that the male adult bird died and the female found a new mate. They produced two chicks, three in 2015 and 2016 and two in 2017. A new pair arrived in 2016 and chose the right-hand box (Box 4) and they bred in 2017 and had two chicks.

Both our breeding pairs of swifts have now retuned from their long journey back from Africa and have been busy re-arranging their nest boxes. Our first egg was produced in Box 1 on 16 May. We will watch their progress with interest.