Science & Environment

Builders urged to allow for swift nests

Image caption Swift numbers have been affected by home improvements

House builders and homeowners need to provide more nest sites for swifts, to help reverse the bird's falling numbers, conservationists say.

The RSPB wants at least one in 20 new and refurbished homes to include permanent nest sites for swifts, which it says "need people" to survive.

A survey last year revealed more than three-quarters of swifts were nesting in homes.

The RSPB says the bird's numbers have dropped by 30% in recent years.

The organisation's studies have suggested the declining species is at risk from improvement work being undertaken on old houses.

Labour's eco-town plans included permanent provision for nesting swifts in 5% of new buildings.

Although it is still not certain what the fate of the eco-town proposals will be under the coalition government, the RSPB believes the rules should be applied to all new builds and restoration projects.

Sarah Niemann, RSPB species recovery officer, said: "Regardless of whether the government plans for these towns go ahead, the RSPB feels that if 5% of all new builds were to include new nest sites, it would be a great step forward for swifts."

"Swifts need people, and sharing your house with swifts is a real privilege. They make perfect, quiet neighbours," she added.

The RSPB's head of planning and regional policy Simon Marsh urged the building industry to "sit up and take notice" of the difference they could make to the fate of swifts.

"All it takes is some simple steps to create sites during renovation work, or when they are building new houses, especially in areas where swifts are already present," he said.

The RSPB also urged homeowners, builders and developers to leave existing nest sites undisturbed where possible and to ensure they replaced nest access holes when doing repairs.

Custom-made swift boxes could also be fitted, the charity added.

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