Cavan Birdwatch are delighted to be writing an article each month for the Anglo Celt; our local paper. We will post the articles here after they have been published.
The swift is a summer migrant that breeds throughout Europe and much of Asia and winters in southern Africa. It arrives in Ireland in early May and departs in early August. Swifts can be seen in many of the towns and villages in Cavan. Its shape is easily recognized by its scythe- like wings and dark brown colour and short, notched tail. It is most common in towns and villages where it uses cracks, holes, or cavities in old buildings for nesting. They can often be heard screaming in the evening high in the sky. They spend most of their life flying – they eat, sleep and mate while flying and only stop to nest and rear young. Their tiny legs and feet are purely designed for clinging to upright stone or rock. Flying insects are their main food. When feeding young, the adult collects insects and stores them in a pouch in the mouth to take back to the nest site. This allows them to gather food far away from the nest. They lay two or three eggs and can fledge in five to eight weeks. The nest site is normally clean compared to house martins or swallows. The chicks’ feces is contained in a “fecal sac” which is carried away by the parent thereby keeping the nest clean. Once they leave the nest they will stay on the wing for possibly two years before they breed. They can live for over 20 years.
Unfortunately their numbers have declined in recent years possibly due to loss of nesting sites, reduction of available food and perhaps our wet summers. While we are not in a position to affect the weather or the food we can provide nest boxes; or when old buildings are been reconstructed, special bricks can be incorporated to provide nest sites. Swifts are very faithful to their nest sites from year to year. The first step to helping conserve swifts is to locate their nest sites. Then, often the best way of helping them is to leave them alone. If swifts are known to nest in a building where renovation is necessary, disturbance and erection of scaffolding should not take place between May and August. Birdwatch Ireland would welcome reports of known nesting sites within the county. You can contact email@example.com Cavan Birdwatch is on Facebook and has a blog page. cavanbranch.blogspot.ie Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our mailing list.
photo by Clare Donoghue