Swift response from world experts at Cambridge conference
For three days in mid-April, birders, professional ornithologists and action groups from around the world gathered in Cambridge to debate how to reverse the decline in swift populations. More than 150 people from 24 countries — including America, Canada, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan — met for the Cambridge International Swift Conference to hear from a host of experts.
Speakers and researchers talked about studies and work to protect swifts, including local initiatives such as a housing project in Fulbourn that helped protect East Anglia's largest Common Swift colony, and the Cambridge Swift Tower.
Cambridge and the surrounding areas are a hotspot for Swift conservation activity and national organisations, particularly the RSPB, are registering the locations of all known breeding Common Swifts to enable planning authorities to take on board some of the mitigation measures used where development may lose nest sites. You can hear more about the Swift Inventory from Laura in the video below.
We interviewed many of the speakers about their projects and the initiatives that are already helping populations of various swift species around the world. Look out in the video for the Minister for Culture from Azerbaijan talking about the restoration project on The Maiden Tower, where over 200 new swift boxes were put up on adjacent buildings. The speaker talks of the pride that the local community now have for their colony.
The main thrust of the science suggests that swift populations are in decline because of limited availability of nest sites due to changes in building practices. Modern soffits and building materials are not creating the necessary cavities in the eaves of houses for a bird that has lived hand in hand with people for centuries. Although some are trying to remedy this, it needs more householders to put up simple swift boxes in north-facing locations to attract these fantastic birds back into our urban spaces.
Enjoy our interview with the speakers, delegates and organisations driving forward the agenda for swift conservation around the world. Some people have gone to extraordinary lengths to make their homes safe for Common Swifts, including some stunning nest box footage.