Swift reaction to protect birds of a feather

PUBLISHED: 11:14 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:50 11 May 2010

BIRD IN THE HAND: Deborah Lauterpacht checks up on one of the swifts. 3079DW054

BIRD IN THE HAND: Deborah Lauterpacht checks up on one of the swifts. 3079DW054

ROYSTON has long been a popular destination for migratory birds, perhaps the most famous being the Royston Crow, after which this newspaper is named. And now the swift is the latest bird to take a shine to the town. Deborah Lauterpacht, of Brewery Lane, M

3079DW070

ROYSTON has long been a popular destination for migratory birds, perhaps the most famous being the Royston Crow, after which this newspaper is named.

And now the swift is the latest bird to take a shine to the town.

Deborah Lauterpacht, of Brewery Lane, Meldreth, is full-time wild bird carer who works with Action for Swifts, an organisation which aims to protect and improve existing swift colonies.

Action for Swifts works with homeowners, local authorities, architects and builders to try to safeguard swift access to the buildings where they nest.

Ms Lauterpacht, who also works closely with a conservation group called London's Swifts, said: "Royston has a good population of swifts, but between 1994 and 2006, the breeding population for swifts in the south-east of England halved.

"The reason for this is that swifts do not build nests, rather they use holes in soffits, gaps between roof tiles, and imperfections in buildings.

"They always come back to the same nest and they meet up with their mate there so if the nesting site has gone they are completely stuck."

To combat this problem, Action for Swifts puts up nesting boxes in areas where swifts are known to rear their chicks, but Ms Lauterpacht says this is difficult without help from the public.

She said: "The swifts nest until mid-August, so now is the time to go out at dusk and see if you have swifts nesting on your property.

"Anyone who thinks that a swift might be nesting on their property should get in touch.

"The swifts belong to everyone, not just the people who own the houses, and if we want to keep them in Royston, we need to do something about it."

Swifts are black boomerang-shaped birds, with long wings and white throat patches.

They feed, mate and even sleep in the air, only coming to roost during the breeding season.

The birds are often confused with swallows and house martins, but in fact are more closely related to hummingbirds.

If you have spotted any swifts nesting in the Royston area or would like to help put up nesting boxes, call Deborah on 01763 269 686 or e-mail roystonswifts@googlemail.com.

For more information about swifts, visit www.actionforswifts.com or www.londons-swifts.org.uk.

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