A swift supporter has put swift bricks in her Aylsham home, adding to the town’s tally of secure nesting places for swifts, writes Tracy Brighten.

Concerned about the dwindling number of swifts in Aylsham, local resident Helen was keen to help these remarkable migratory birds. She contacted Aylsham Swift Group about retrofitting swift bricks and group co-ordinator Pat Grocott advised on where to place the bricks in terms of aspect, flight path, and ease of installation.

Fitting swift bricks in the eaves.

Local builder Steve Hughes installed the S Bricks supplied by Action for Swifts to match Helen’s house bricks. Having removed three bricks from under the eaves, Steve laid a nest brick on a layer of mortar, then replaced the house brick above and a half brick to the side. The self-contained box with nesting cup sits in the cavity and requires no cleaning or maintenance.

Explaining why she installed swift bricks, Helen said: “I’m seeing fewer swifts coming back to Aylsham and wanted to help. I chose bricks because boxes deteriorate over time, and they can be removed. I won’t be here forever, so bricks will provide permanent nest spaces.”

Swifts are attracted to dark spaces, and the hole in a swift brick resembles the crevices swifts look for.

Ideal location for a swift nest brick or box

Although Helen is not too far from a colony of swifts nesting under pantiles, she will play a recording of swift calls morning and evening to alert swifts to these new family homes. Swifts return from Africa in three waves. In early May, breeding swifts arrive to reclaim their nest sites. Swifts are site faithful, so Helen is unlikely to attract these birds unless their nest has been blocked with eaves combs or new soffits. From the end of May, younger birds that fledged two years ago are looking for a partner and nest site – they are unlikely to breed but will roost and build a nest for next year. These are the birds most likely to check out new nest boxes and bricks. In July, yearlings arrive looking to join a colony and screaming parties!

Swift bricks provide a lifeline for birds that are displaced when renovations have blocked off their usual nest site; they also give first-time breeders a home, helping colonies to expand. A wide choice of nest bricks is available to suit brick, render or stone exteriors; bricks can also be custom made to match an external finish and cavity depth.

An integrated soffit box is another discreet nesting space easily fitted with new fascia and soffit boards, or retrofitted when repairs are carried out. If bricks or soffit boxes are not an option, external nest boxes in the form of single, double and multiple units are used widely and successfully by swifts in the UK.

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