Swift boxes

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For a couple of years now Jo and myself have been thinking about putting up swift boxes on our house.  We have breeding swifts in our village and felt that boxes may be successful.  Unfortunately our house isn’t suited to swallows and it has smooth render, so despite our best efforts with false boxes we can’t seem to encourage house martins either.  So maybe it will be third time lucky with swifts!

“The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flier. It evens sleeps on the wing! It is plain sooty brown, but in flight against the sky it appears black. It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. It is a summer visitor, breeding across the UK, but most numerously in the south and east. It winters in Africa.” RSPB 

“But….swifts are in trouble. The UK has seen numbers plummeting, with a 53% decline between 1995 and 2016.” RSPB

So spurred on by the RSPB Love Nature campaign to have 1000 extra swift boxes up before the birds arrive back from Africa this month I took to researching how to make them.  If you know me you will already know that I didn’t want to buy the boxes, I wanted to make my own instead. I enjoy a bit of woodwork, I’ve made 100+ bird boxes, so a few swift boxes shouldn’t be difficult…….or so I thought!! I immediately came upon the Bristol Swift Project and their fantastically informative website full of information on box designs, things which have worked and things which haven’t. 
I had to choose from a standard style that you fit underneath your eaves, or a side of the house design or even a swift row of boxes so three boxes in one, a terrace!
I decided on the standard, under the eaves type, so armed with their plans I was off!

Plans – from Bristol Swift Project

I ordered a couple of sheets of 18mm plywood from a local builders merchant. The wood arrived a few days later, unfortunately there were some really bad knocks where the skin layer of plywood had been damaged, so they came and took it back! Good job really, the wood I ordered was too thick as it should have been 12mm …….that part was my fault!
Fortunately we have a friend within the village who offered to fetch a couple of 8′ x 4′ sheets of plywood from a local store, this time 12mm!
When I finally studied the design and marked out one of the sheets of plywood, I thought ‘well that’s weird, on the diagram I should be using half a sheet of ply for each box, why do two boxes take up just a third of one sheet?’ It turned out I had misread the main sheet size and now had far too much plywood!

Oh well never mind, I got cutting the sections I needed and decided to make four boxes, just so we have a couple spare.
All pieces cut for four boxes (ample plywood left over, hence the barn owl box last week….!! ) I assembled each one by pre-drilling, countersinking and sanding.

The hole was made as a ‘D’ shape to a rough size of 30mm. The ‘D’ shape is an idea that the Bristol Swift Project came up with, again through their many years of extensive research.

I cut a small square block of 18mm wood, routered out the inside to create a little bowl all ready for any eggs and to help prevent them rolling away. Swifts don’t make a nest as such.
I decided to add a partition inside, the Bristol Swift research suggests that swifts prefer to go around something to get to their nest.

The next stage was to alter one of the sides to create a drop down door where I can fix a camera, ready for spotting any birds (we can but hope). All I need to do is attach a cable to the camera when and if we see swift activity.

Finally I just had to paint them all, the outside a cream colour the same as our exterior walls and the inside a matt black (thank you to Danny for the paint and collecting the wood). Again the experience of the Bristol Swifters suggests darkened boxes are preferred.

The last thing was to get the double extension ladder out and fix two of the boxes either side of a bedroom window.

I know…. we will get the noise but we are more than happy with that if it helps the population of swifts.

Finally I bunged some sponge in the doorways, we don’t want our mass of house sparrows making a home in these boxes…..they will you know!! Now we sit back and wait…..I’ll be sure to let you know if we get swifts in our boxes – keep your fingers crossed for us. 🤓

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4 thoughts on “Swift boxes”

  1. Great article!! Going to try to send it to my husband so he can read it…I think after looking it up on the internet my understanding is that we have quite a lot of these birds all along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States…don’t know if I ever noticed them before or if I knew what they were if they were around…Do you worry about them getting into your chimney at all…sounds like they might if spooked for any reason because it would be an enclosed area and that is where they like to hide…I would love to hear how this works out for you…

    1. Hi Susan, thank you very much. Yes it would be great if we get swifts nesting in the boxes I made, it won’t be long until they arrive with their duty free! We have quite small chimney pots on the house so we shouldn’t have that problem. 🙂

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