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Our Double Swift Nestbox

Double Swift box

Swifts are quite amazing birds that are a delight to watch sawing around in the sky with their scythe shaped wings. They come to the UK as summer migrants all the way from southern Africa, a distance of some 6,000 miles. We had an unfortunate close up encounter with a Swift a year ago. Bella, one of cats brought one into our kitchen one night, fortunately she hadn't harmed it and I managed to carefully capture it and released it. How Bella had managed to catch it we just don't know, as from birth Swifts are supposed to remain on the wing for the rest of their lives and even sleep on the wing. Our only thought was that as it was May time, maybe this was migrant had just arrived, was tired and had just landed on our garage roof for a rest.

After that encounter I was captivated by this beautiful bird and then I started to find out more about them (there is a great article about Swifts 'The Greatest Bird on Earth' by G. J. Gamble worth a read). Whilst searching the web I came across the brilliant Bristol Swifts site run by Mark Glanville who is enthusiastic about Swift conservation and who has been making Swift boxes for several years now for his home in Bristol. Apparently Swift numbers have unfortunately decreased in the last few years due in part to lack of nesting sites. Using one of Mark's designs I decided to make this double nest box in the hope that it would give another couple of nesting sites.

We have incorporated an IP camera into each of the nest boxes so we can monitor any activity (hence the black conduit coming out of the side of the nest box ). Mark Glanville suggests on his site that to have any hope of getting swifts to take to your nest box then you need to play their calls. You will notice that there is a small speaker attached to the bottom of the double nest box. This is connected to a small mp3 player and amplifier in our loft and this is used to play the Swift calls to try and encourage the swifts to investigate the nest box.

The kitter amplifier in our loft

The little Kinter amplifier and mp3 player in our loft which we bought from Peak Boxes.

Our box was put up on 17th April 2020, in time for the swifts to start arriving in the UK at the end of April beginning of May. According to Mark Glanville the Swifts arrive in the UK in three waves:

  • The first wave - These arrive in the last week in April – early May and consist mainly of breeding adults returning to their traditional nest sites. Apparently it is difficult to attract these to a new site as they are extremely site faithful.
  • The second wave - They arrive from the end of May and into the first half of June. These are 2-3 year old birds looking for a nest site and are the ones that could possibly find our nest box.
  • The third wave. These arrive in the middle of July and they are yearlings returning for the first time. They are interested in joining a colony and will visit several in the local area to suss out the best ones. There is a chance that they might use our box but not nest in it.

If you are interested in making your own swift box or if you want to find out more information on the migration waves and how to use the Swift calls to attract swifts then look on this page of Mark Glanville's Bristol Swifts site.

If you are interested in how I made our Double Swift Nestbox and how I mounted it on to the side of our house then have a look at this page.


Even though we have been playing swift calls all summer and regularly having a dozen or more Swifts screaming around the skies over our house there has been no interest in the Swift box this year. Oh well I have heard it can take several years. We will look forward to next May and hope that we have success next year.