Protecting our local Swift population

Published 14 July 2022

WDH has been working closely with local action group, Wakefield Swifts, on roofing projects to make sure the endangered birds, as well as other species’ habitats, are safe.

It is important we work closely with the group and monitor the bird’s behaviour as Swifts are currently red listed and in serious decline. The house nesting birds have now adapted to nesting in houses over generations but with new roofing there is little or no space for them to nest. By creating nest spaces on our developments, we can help protect them from further decline.

By working together, we have identified ways of minimising disruption to nesting birds whilst undertaking re-roofing works. This includes identifying properties which should have works delayed and fitting nest cups and holes in soffits to increase the chances of birds using them for nesting.

Before starting the scheme, the local residents were very concerned about the impact the works would have on the local bird population. WDH met with the residents and set up a community engagement morning earlier in June to discuss the works and measures which would be put in place to allow the wildlife to return, for years to come.

David Blakely, Construction Project Manager at WDH, said: “Since joining the team I have quickly learned the importance of the great work our partnership with Wakefield and District Swift Group contributes to, helping to conserve the habitats of this protected species.”

He added: “WDH has worked with the Wakefield and District Swift group for many years now, they continue to advise WDH on local ecology of nesting species and provide guidance on potential nesting patterns. This advice has been invaluable, the Swift team carry out surveys on behalf of WDH as part of the scheme’s mobilisation. We have monitored and identified established nests and waited until these have fully fledged, this has led to several changes and challenges to the programme, keeping residents informed has been key to this project’s early successes, networking between the teams has been invaluable.”

John Hughes, Investment Delivery Manager at WDH, said: “As part of our ongoing reinvestment programme, early ecological surveys were carried out to look for signs of birds and bats nesting in and around WDH properties. Wakefield Swifts contacted WDH to see if any additional works could be considered on our current and upcoming projects where the group have specialist knowledge of Swift activity in the area. They were quick to come up with some helpful solutions as to how we could help maintain the Swift population in conjunction with our need to work to the specification.”

Chris Swaine, from the Wakefield and District Swift Club, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with WDH on the Beech Avenue project amongst other roofing projects in the past 12 Months. Loss of nesting sites is one of a number of factors contributing to the -60% decline of the species in the past 20 years. This policy of inserting bird holes not only protects existing colonies but also give them chance to grow. These nesting spaces created also help Bats, Butterflies, Sparrows, Blue tits and other species which use cavity nests which means they can be enjoyed by generations to come."

Did you know?

In 22 years between 1995- 2017, Swifts have declined -57%

Swifts almost only nest in properties that were constructed before 1944, since 1997 social housing properties have undergone many modernisations including re-roofing programs, which has contributed to the decline of the Swift habitat and population, this multiplied across the country has had a drastic impact on the species.


Thanks to the Wakefield Swifts providing the Source of data at: U.K. breeding birds survey by the British trust of ornithology (BTO).

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