Projects - Swift Project
The Swift Project
The Common Swift
Common Swifts Apus apus have managed to intrigue and fascinate nature lovers and birdwatchers from all over the world due to their unique characteristics. They are truly ‘born to fly’, and remain airborne for almost their whole life after leaving the nest, landing again only when their time comes to breed. Accustomed to humans, Swifts nest mainly in cities and villages and bring life to the afternoon sky as they fly in ‘screaming’ flocks at great speeds, over houses and roofs.
Common Swifts arrive in Cyprus every year to nest beginning of February and by end of July they return to sub-Saharan Africa to spend the winter. Over recent years however, the number of available nesting sites has been reduced and it is up to us to help these amazing birds that are such an integral part of the urban landscape.
What is threatening Common Swifts?
The degradation of nature and loss of biodiversity is happening on a global scale and affects Common Swifts too. The two greatest threats that Common Swifts face are the intensification of agriculture, which results in the reduction of food availability (reduction of insect availability due to pesticide use) and the loss of nesting sites. Unlike Barn Swallows, Common Swifts do not build nests. Instead, they choose to breed in small holes under roofs, tiles or eaves – usually found in old buildings. Such spaces have however become increasingly hard to find, due to the fast-paced modernization of the urban landscape. As their population is decreasing, both in Cyprus and in other parts of the world, the placement of nest boxes has proven to be an effective measure to offset this loss.
The current estimated population for Cyprus is 15,000 – 60,000 pairs but this is an already decreased number, as the population is estimated to have declined between 25-75% since 2006.
What is BirdLife Cyprus doing for Common Swifts?
In 2015, BirdLife Cyprus started a pilot project with funding from the Tasso Leventis Conservation Foundation and in collaboration with SPNI (BirdLife in Israel) to help Swifts in Cyprus. In Israel, a similar project has been active for years now, with great success. The project’s main actions are the creation of nest boxes and their installation in specific areas, ideal for Swifts, as well as raising awareness among the public. BirdLife Cyprus has installed nest boxes on the buildings of the Municipality of Aradippou and the Community Council of Voroklini as well as at the elementary schools of these two communities. Below is a video from one of the occupied nest boxes at the Voroklini Community Council building, where a nest box camera was installed, showing a Common Swift tending to its chick.
In addition, in 2019 and with funding from Cyta – the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority, we expanded this project with 30 new nests in five nest boxes that were installed at five Cyta buildings in Nicosia, Larnaka and Limassol. We hope to expand this network by installing more nest boxes for Common Swifts all over Cyprus and give these magnificent birds a better chance to breed on our island.
Policies to help Swifts
It is important to ensure that the right policies are in place when restoring old buildings in areas where Swifts nest. This way, existing nesting sites can be protected and if this is not feasible, new nesting sites can be established so that when Common Swifts return, they can nest there again. Moreover, when buildings have to be demolished, it should at least be ensured that these do not take place during the breeding season (February – July). Making agricultural policy more wildlife-friendly is also critical for the Common Swift, as it is for so much other wildlife.