Advice for Architects, Developers and Land Managers
Swift numbers have declined by 51% since 1995. The exact reason for this is not clear but modern building designs, coupled with the refurbishment of old buildings, have deprived Swifts of nest sites and contributed to the population decline.
Various organisations work to raise awareness of the birds’ plight and proactive groups - such as Action for Swifts, Swift Conservation and members of the Swift Local Network -encourage the provision of more nestboxes.
Swift brick boxes are an excellent way to provide nesting opportunities. They should be fitted on the side of a building which gets some shade, or under an overhang or eaves to give protection from heat (but not over windows or near vents). They should be sited at least 5 metres above ground, with clear adjacent airspace so Swifts can access them in direct flight at high speed. Make sure that predators, such as cats, crows, magpies, squirrels, and rats, don't have easy access by climbing up creepers or flying in from close perches.
A swift box embedded in a brick wall.
Schwegler Swift Box No.17
Schwegler Swift Box No.17A Triple Cavity
Schwegler Swift Box No.17B with enlarged brood chamber
Where to install
Install Swift boxes (shown here as pink blocks) under the roof, in the top corner of blockwork, in shaded areas out of direct sunlight and away from windows. Swift boxes do not generate any problems with bird droppings but Swifts may be disturbed by people. Minimum height from ground should be no less that 5 metres and boxes should not be obstructed by trees, ladders or aerials.
Checking use and maintenance
Swift nesting places do not usually need any cleaning and brick boxes, if competently installed, don't need any maintenance. Where brick boxes with removable covers are used they will need to be regularly checked for integrity, perhaps as part of the building’s regular maintenance programme.
How many boxes?
Swifts like a few neighbours and a busy Swift colony will be a powerful attraction to other Swifts. Fit two to twenty boxes on your site, taking into account its size. For a house: two boxes; for a school, office or warehouse: ten to twenty.
House Sparrow numbers have plummeted from more than 12 million pairs in the 1970s to less than half that today. A reduction in available nesting sites in buildings is likely to be a contributing factor.
House Sparrows have traditionally exploited gaps in house walls and eaves to build nests. House renovation has removed many of these niches, so providing nesting opportunities counters this loss.
In rural areas House Sparrows will nest close to each other and be attracted if two or three nestboxes are installed close together (15 to 20cm apart). Alternatively, consider boxes which have two or more nesting chambers.
Though sparrows seem very comfortable close to people, they can be sensitive to disturbance when nesting, so it is best to locate boxes at least 5 metres above ground when possible.
Schwegler 32mm hole Brick Box No.24
Schwegler House Sparrow Terrace
CedarPlus Triple Sparrow House
Though Starlings are still common in many parts of Britain, their overall population is less than half what it was in the 1970s.
Reasons for the decline are largely due to changes in farming - such as loss of permanent pasture - but the lack of nesting cavities in modern houses and other buildings may also be a driver.
Starlings are naturally gregarious so will happily nest in close proximity to their neighbours. This means you can group several integrated boxes high (above 2.5 metres) in house walls.
Schwegler Nest Box 1BFN(7)
Blue and Great Tit
Over the last 20 years there has been greater provision of wild bird food in gardens during winter, and wider availability of nestboxes which can reduce egg and nestling predation. This has contributed to the long-term rise of Blue and Great Tits.
Both species are great favourites of householders living in towns and cities and take readily to integrated brick-type boxes, as well as external conventional nestboxes.
Additionally, these boxes can be installed flush and rendered or covered so only the entrance hole is visible.
Schwegler 32mm hole Brick Box No.24
Robin, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Wagtail
The Robin (far left) is a common and popular garden bird and frequently nests in town and city gardens.
Spotted Flycatcher (top right), now a scarce breeding bird in the UK, and Pied Wagtail (bottom) prefer rural areas in large, quiet gardens.
All three species nest in open-fronted nestboxes. To maximize occupancy, it is best to position the box near to cover such as nearby shrubs or trees.
The boxes shown here have dimensions which correspond to standard, commercially available bricks used in modern European construction. These dimensions allow for a 1 cm layer of mortar enabling the nesting blocks to be inserted in any wall without the need to cut adjoining bricks. The box can be installed flush with the outside wall and can be rendered or covered so that only the entrance is visible.
The 1HE features a narrowing entrance, safe against magpies, jays, cats and martens. This model can be mounted externally. When fixing on a wall order the 1HE including mounting bracket.
Schwegler Brick Box No.26
House Martins have traditionally built their mud nests under the ledges of cliffs but, as their name suggests, have found that our homes make very acceptable alternatives. There has been a rapid decline in numbers over the last 20 years, especially across southern and middle England and Northern Ireland. The reasons are not fully understood but it is increasingly obvious that most modern houses do not offer the nesting opportunities because they have shallower eaves.
Fortunately House Martins will occupy artificial nests. Developers and builders can fix nestboxes easily to modern eaves and thus provide opportunities for these birds to take up residency. The Terrace (right) is straightforward to fit and easy to clean.
Schwegler House Martin Terrace No.11
Kestrel, Jackdaw and Swift
Kestrel (top left), and especially Jackdaw (top right), are increasingly taking up residency in towns and cities.
Jackdaws are quick to discover new nesting sites on buildings, so providing them with bespoke nestboxes on houses, office blocks or industrial buildings will be a sure way of getting them to nest.
Kestrels are relatively retiring and shy birds and less likely to nest amongst domestic houses. However, nestboxes placed at higher elevations, such as church towers, bridges and taller industrial buildings, will attract them.
Since Jackdaws and Swift (bottom) breed in colonies, it is best to provide a number of Multi-System boxes in close proximity to one another. Kestrels are solitary nesters so to attract them it is best to fit only one or two Multi-System boxes on a building, a church tower or bridge.
The Schwegler Built-in Multi System (Main Cavity Only) offers exchangeable front panels for Jackdaw, Kestrel and Swift (left to right). This Main Cavity is supplied without a front panel which should be ordered separately. At a later stage the front panel can be changed to accommodate a different species. Installation depth can be varied to meet individual requirements and the type of building construction. Ideally the Main Cavity should be set 24 cm into the wall.
Schwegler Built-in Multi System
> 5m above ground
Away from windows
In deep shade
2-20 bricks per site