Leeds Swifts

Aiming to make Leeds the swift capital of the UK

For many of us, the aerial screaming display of the swift once represented the sound of late summer in our towns and cities. Sadly, this sound is heard no more in many of our urban areas. The skies have fallen silent as more and more swift nesting sites are lost due to modern building methods, renovation and demolition.

Swift numbers have fallen by nearly 40% in the last 20 years. They need our help urgently. Can you provide a space for swifts?

Leeds Swifts is part of a UK-wide network of swift volunteers promoting the plight and conservation of these amazing aerial specialists. We can provide help and advice to anyone who is thinking about

  1. protecting existing swift colonies when renovating their home
  2. providing a home for swifts by erecting nest boxes

See what is possible by looking at the Leeds Swifts colony in Gledhow on our Facebook page. You can also find us on Twitter @LeedsSwifts.

Contact Leeds Swifts leeds.swifts@gmail.com or download these leaflets
Leeds Swifts leaflet for information about how you can help us in Leeds
SLN How you can help swifts for 6 easy steps and links to lots of resources.

A review of the 2020 season

As winter advances towards spring, we’re well on the way to welcoming our swifts back and it’s time to review the 2020 breeding season.

The challenges of 2020 were not limited to humans. Persistent poor weather conditions during the summer presented swifts, swallows and martins, birds that eat aerial insects, with some difficult decision making. Their breeding season was affected badly and many chicks perished.

At the Gledhow colony, breeding success was disappointing compared to the previous 5 years. Only 56% of the eggs laid produced fledged swifts, compared to the average of 82%. However, over 30 chicks fledged from the colony as a whole and more boxes were occupied by new pairs of swifts for the first time, so the season can definitely be described as “a curate’s egg”.

There were two exceptionally poor weather periods and we suspected these to be the cause of the poor breeding productivity, so we decided to have a close look at the effects of those weather periods on the Gledhow swifts. The research closely focused on 5 pairs of Gledhow swifts monitored by cameras and evolved to look at other swift colonies, the mass movement of swifts in late June and the large numbers of grounded swifts. Thus, we have produced a paper on the 2020 swift breeding season which can be viewed and downloaded here..

It is quite a long read, but we hope you find it interesting. We would appreciate your observations and comments.Happily, 2020 wasn’t all bad news for swifts. The displays were as spectacular as ever, there were still plenty of successful breeding pairs and seven new pairs of swifts occupied nest boxes for the first time and roosted until the end of the season. This bodes well for 2021 and we are looking forward to their return in April.

What to do if you find a grounded swift

Because swifts use tiny holes under a roof space, chicks often fall out of the nest if they get too warm or simply if they start to move around to exercise their wings. Swift chicks stay in the nest for a remarkable 40-45 days depending on the abundance of insects. They are not able to fly until they are fully developed then they make their way to Africa, unaided, without ever perching. In fact, after fledging, a swift might not land again for 2-3 years. This highly developed aerial specialist needs an insectivorous diet to survive. If you find a grounded swift please follow these instructions

  1. do not throw it into the air under any circumstances
  2. make sure that you have correctly identified the bird – Am I a swift
  3. contact your nearest swift group – find one here
  4. alternatively, contact Linda on 07778 768719, Martin 07840 838764 at Leeds Swifts or email leeds.swifts@gmail.com. You can also contact us via our Facebook page
  5. please do not feed the bird meat, mealworms or seed or put it in a cage. Use a deep plastic container. A grounded swift is unable to fly and a cage will irreparably damage those long flight feathers.

Hopefully we can provide the help it needs as quickly as possible and enable it to fledge successfully. If you don’t live in Leeds then there may be a swift rehabilitator nearer you or you may be able to help the swift yourself. Check out Swift First Aid page for help and advice or to find carers in the UK

Useful Links

Like Leeds Swifts on Facebook Follow @LeedsSwifts on Twitter


Thanks to the artist Janis Goodman, our patron, for allowing us to use ‘Swift Arrival’ as our logo.


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