Call for swift action on bird boxes in Exmouth

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 August 2016

Withycombe resident Jan Gannaway is calling for more swift boxes to be installed in and around the town. Ref exe 32-16SH 5083. Picture: Simon Horn.

Withycombe resident Jan Gannaway is calling for more swift boxes to be installed in and around the town. Ref exe 32-16SH 5083. Picture: Simon Horn.


‘Give a swift a home’ is the message from a Withycombe Raleigh woman concerned for the birds’ dwindling numbers.

Jan Gannaway, 68, of Brackenwood, Exmouth, is hoping to gather support for a new swift group in Exmouth – lobbying businesses and sharing information about the birds’ decline.

In a bid to boost the protected bird, Jan aims to set up special swift nest boxes throughout the town, to help the migratory birds breed during their three-month stay in the UK.

Often the birds’ nesting plans suffer on their return to the UK from South Africa; some find their original sites have been removed, or boarded up.

Jan said: “Swifts tend to re-use nest sites. If they have flown all the way from South Africa to Exmouth and find their nest sites have been boarded up, they are only here for three months – they have very little time to find somewhere to nest.

“I am asking people to erect special nest boxes so if the swifts come back and they find their nest boxes boarded up they can find somewhere else to nest quickly.

“Roof repairs are carried out, blocking up the holes by which the swifts gain entry, and modern houses are mostly built giving them no access to roof spaces.

“The number of nesting sites has gradually become fewer and fewer until, one summer there will be no nesting sites left.

“Swifts tend to return to where they were born and re-use their nests – so if they find no nest sites, these wonderful birds will soon be gone from our skies.

“It would make sense to start by putting boxes in areas where the swifts are already nesting. If you know where they nest, let me know.

“In a few days, our swifts will be leaving on their migration. Let’s hope, when they return next year, there will be plenty of nesting opportunities for them. It would be wonderful to see 50 or 60 swifts in the skies of Exmouth instead of the tiny number on the wing this year.”

Jan is urging people to buy and erect a specially-designed swift box for around £30 from the Swift Conservation website, to be placed high under the eaves.

She is also asking people to get specialist advice before making repairs to buildings where swifts nest.

Jan added: “I am appealing to readers to join me in setting up a local swift group. We can give out advice, lobby local businesses, help to put up boxes, and maybe engage an expert speaker. Also, please let me know if you are putting up nest boxes so I can keep track of what is being done.”

Email Jan at

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