Local voluntary group S6 Swifts have installed four crowdfunded swift nesting boxes to Malin Bridge Primary School in Hillsborough to help reverse the population decline of this at-risk bird.
Since 2021, Co-organisers Melanie Savas and Laura Lian of S6 Swifts have helped facilitate the installation of over 200 swift nest-boxes onto local residents’ homes and raise awareness of the plight of swifts using social media.
“This incredible bird spends the majority of its two-decade lifespan in the air, migrating between Sheffield and other areas of northern Europe to mid-Africa and back each year without touching land once”, said Laura.
“Each May, we see and hear their return, but we are hugely concerned about population decline”.
Melanie added “Look out for groups of boomerang-shaped birds that appears black in the sky. Their screaming calls mean the start of summer for many people”.
The Common Swift was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in December 2021 after it was reported that their numbers had fallen by 58% since 1995. Swifts return to the same nests to breed year after year, which are at risk of destruction due to soffit and roof replacements. It is thought that a decline in insect numbers could also be contributing to their fate.
Local parents and residents generously exceeded the goal of £250 for the boxes (with a box donated by the Sheffield Vulcan Rotary Club) which were made by local company, Peak Boxes, and installed by Jan Bullett of Nest Box Installations onto the walls of this Victorian school building.
Robbie McGrath, Headteacher of Malin Bridge Primary School, Henry Nottage, newly-elected Green Councillor for Hillsborough, and Ian Cracknell, Advocacy Officer at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust also attended the installation of the nest boxes show their support for this community initiative.
Robbie McGrath, Headteacher of Malin Bridge Primary School, said:
“We are really pleased to have been able to install the swift boxes and hopefully see the birds set up nests in them.
“The school community donated generously to the fund organised by the parents and the quality of the finished boxes is incredible. The swifts will certainly be enjoying life in a luxury home!”
Cllr Henry Nottage, newly elected Green Councillor for Hillsborough ward, said:
“I would like to offer a massive thanks to school, the parents and everyone involved in the fundraising, supply and installation of the Swift boxes. We are seeing a distressing level of species extinction at present which is catastrophic. We must do everything we can to prevent this decline which means not just protecting our wild spaces but making our urban areas a better habitat – and Swift boxes are a great way of helping the species.
“I am hopeful that other projects such as stopping the use of glyphosate, ‘no-mow May’ and rewilding small areas of ground across the city will create a thriving insect base for the Swifts and many more species. With plenty of food and great accommodation like the boxes at Malin Bridge Primary School I hope Sheffield will be a great home for them for many years to come.”
Ian Cracknell, Advocacy Officer at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said:
“It’s fantastic to see local communities coming together like this to help turn around the fortunes of this much-loved bird.
“I would encourage anyone that would like to help to consider adding a nest box to their property and contacting their local swift group, details for which can be found on our website at wildsheffield.com/swifts — and please do join our Swift Summit event at Sheffield Hallam University on 7 July to find out more about how you can help these amazing birds recover and thrive.”
Sheffield & Rotherham Swift Summit
Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust will be celebrating this incredible bird and the people taking action to help it by hosting the area’s first ever ‘Swift Summit’ from 7pm on Thursday 7 July.
The event will be held at Sheffield Hallam University’s Pennine Theatre, chaired by the Trust’s Chief Executive Liz Ballard and will feature special guest speaker Sarah Gibson.
Sarah is the author of Swifts and Us, a fascinating story of discovery, exploring what is known about these mysterious birds, their ancient ancestry and how they have been regarded through history.
There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the wonderful work of our local swift groups and hear how you can get involved, take action and help us work together to help make Sheffield a swift city!
Tickets are free with a suggested donation of £5 — all proceeds after event costs going towards conservation work for swifts in the area — available now from wildsheffield.com/whats-on.