Birdwatch News Archive
Common Swift numbers could be severely affected by this summer's cold, wet weather. Photo by Falciot#2 (commons.wikimedia.org).
Wet weather woes for swiftsBirdwatch news team
Posted on: 27 Jul 2012
The wettest June on record since 1910, plus rain throughout much of July, have meant a disastrous breeding season for Common Swifts, the RSPB has said. This comes hard on the heels of reports that the weather has had terrible consequences for a whole range of birds species.
The weather has meant that there have been far fewer of the flying insects that the birds eat and feed to their chicks. Nests have also been failing.
Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation said: “It has been a disastrous summer for many Common Swifts and we fully expect to see a decline in the breeding figures this year. People are telling us that the number of swifts that arrived here several months ago was pretty consistent with last year, but after that they disappeared again as they flew away to wherever they could find food.
“We’ve seen adult birds struggling through storms and ending up underweight because the cold and wet weather has meant fewer flying insects for them to feed on. They are nesting, but as far as we can tell, without much success. Adults have even been pushing unhatched eggs out of their nests because they haven’t been able to feed themselves sufficiently, let alone incubate the eggs and feed young mouths too. The drier weather has unfortunately arrived too late for them.”
Swift Conservation has also heard reports of chicks dying in the nest, partners vanishing, and very late attempts to lay again after failure of the first clutches. It would also seem that birds are leaving for their African wintering grounds early, with huge numbers of birds counted heading south over Spurn Bird Observatory, East Yorkshire. Swift Conservation says this ties in with reports from Common Swift enthusiasts across Britain.
Common Swift is on the amber list of birds of conservation concern after declining by 31per cent between 1995 and 2009.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The last thing this struggling species needed was to be hit hard by the wet weather this year. But they are at the mercy of more than just a wet summer. Their ability to nest depends on our buildings having spaces for them. They fly as many as 6,000 miles each spring to get here from Africa to breed, only to find that changes in the way we’re building and renovating means there are fewer nest spaces. We need to make sure the right choices are made when building and developing so these birds aren’t left homeless.”
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