Durham Cathedral redoubles efforts to attract Common Swifts


Durham Cathedral is installing high-powered speakers in its iconic Belfry Tower to encourage breeding Common Swifts.

The speakers will broadcast the sound of swift calls in the hope of attracting young birds, looking for their first nest site, to breed in the nestboxes fixed to the tower in 2022

In addition to the sound system, a number of motion-triggered cameras will enable the team to monitor nestbox use and will allow the cathedral to update the public on the progress of any arrivals.

Michael Corkhill, Maintenance Supervisor at Durham Cathedral, said: "Conservation and caring for nature is an important aspect of what we do at Durham Cathedral, so last year we were delighted to be able to install the swift boxes to help these endangered animals. With the addition of the sound system to attract the birds, we are hoping to encourage the colonisation of our nestboxes for the first time. We are grateful for the funding from local businessman and swift enthusiast Edward Twiddy, who has made this project possible."

Terry Orton, Durham Cathedral's joiner, fits swift boxes in the Belfry Tower (Durham Cathedral).

The UK Common Swift population declined by 60% between 1995 and 2020, and the species is now Red Listed. It is thought that poor summer weather, a decline in food sources and a loss of suitable nesting sites have contributed to the species reaching this critical conservation status.

Edward Twiddy, who funded the work at Durham Cathedral, commented: "The sound and sight of swifts is an icon of summer. Their presence in the city sends a noisy and spectacular reminder that life returns each spring, but across the UK and much of Europe fewer and fewer of these tireless transcontinental visitors have been returning to raise the next generation. Needing little more than healthy insect populations and somewhere to nest, their demise should send a clear warning about what we are doing to the world around us."

The work is being supported by Durham University. Professor Stephen Willis, who is leading on the university's drive for net biodiversity gain, explained: "The university is working in collaboration with the Cathedral and other land managers around the city to ensure we have a joined-up strategy to reverse the decline of biodiversity locally.

"The swift project also offers the potential for future research projects to better understand the ecology and movements of these enigmatic global tourists, complementing other work on migratory birds that is going on at the university."

For more information visit: www.durhamcathedral.co.uk