Swift conservation

Swifts are an iconic summer visitor to Ireland, arriving in early May following a long migration from southern Africa. Slightly larger than a swallow they are a ‘site faithful’ bird, returning generation after generation to buildings in towns and villages throughout Ireland to nest and raise young. Like many of our wild species however, Swifts are increasingly threatened through loss of nest sites and have suffered an alarming 40% population decline in the past decade. Problems arise when buildings are renovated or torn down removing the Swifts nest sites and sometimes huge nesting colonies can be lost overnight.

The Heritage Office of Laois County Council has been working closely with BirdWatch Ireland on a programme of conservation action for swifts.


Laois Swift Survey 2018

A survey of swifts across urban areas in Laois was carried out in 2018 by BirdWatch Ireland an behalf of Laois Heritage Office with the support of the Heritage Council. This survey found 249 swifts in the survey area  and 149 nest sites. These results  provide a baseline from which we can measure future population change, and will also help to target future conservation action.  Download a copy of the full report below.


Heat map showing the densities of Swift nests across county Laois (ArcGIS (Online) ESRI, 2018)


Laois Swift Survey 2018 Final Report

Swift Nest Box Project


Following the results of the Swift survey, and with funding for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage under the National Biodiversity Action Plan, the Heritage Office worked with BirdWatch Ireland to select suitable sites and erect swift nest boxes with callers at 10 locations across Laois.

Swift nest boxes and caller system being erected at Abbeyleix Library. Photo ALf Harvey

These boxes will be monitored and every opportunity will be taken to erect nest boxes for swifts at other sites in Laois.

Savings Swifts Booklet

A new book to help communities save their swifts has been launched by BirdWatch Ireland and local authority Heritage Officers nationwide.

Swifts are now of serious conservation concern in Ireland. The good news is that there are many practical steps that we can all take to make a difference, and the new guide ‘Saving Swifts’ produced by BirdWatch Ireland and local authority Heritage Officers is available to help. The guide, funded by the Department for Housing, Local Government and Heritage under the National Biodiversity Action Plan, contains all the information required for individuals, local groups, schools, businesses or government departments to play a role in helping this amazing and threatened species. The information is presented in a colourful and user-friendly format and includes details on Swift ecology; reasons for declines; suggested conservation measures; nest box plans, case studies and much more.

Dearbhala Ledwidge, Kilkenny Heritage officer; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage officer and Ricky Whelan, Birdwatch Ireland pictured at the launch of the new book “Saving Swifts” at Abbeyleix Library. The book is a joint publication of BirdWatch Ireland and the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network”. Picture: Alf Harvey.


Download free pdf copy of Saving Swifts


Laois Swift Survey 2018_BirdWatch Ireland Report


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