In response to the news that UK breeding populations of swifts have declined by 51% from 1995 to 2005, I felt compelled to learn more about this urban bird and its struggle to find a home.
The decline in swift numbers is due to a loss of nest spaces as old buildings are renovated or demolished. Swifts will return home to find their nest is gone or has been blocked up. And new buildings are even more unlikely to have crevices where the swift can build a suitable home.
The RSPB has launched a national project called ‘Swift Cities’ to reverse the decline of swifts by:
- raising public awareness
- working in partnership with planners, developers, local authorities and businesses to provide nest sites
- monitoring local swift populations and nest sites through citizen science projects
To find out how to properly identify a swift, take part in a survey, get your hands on a swift nest box or swift brick please visit the RSPB’s website.
Swifts can fly for at least 560 miles a day. They are easy to spot in the sky as they dart around at dusk with a familiar screaming call, gathering food, eating, sleeping and even mating (whilst flying!)
I have really enjoyed working on this new collection of drawings in the studio, each drawing demonstrates the struggle for swifts to find a suitable nesting site, whilst navigating the urban environment. The works vary in size at approximately 75 x 56cm (similar to A1) and use a combination of up to six layers of ink, oil pastel, soft pastel, charcoal and graphite.
I hope that these drawings can be used as a tool to inform people about the decline of the swift population, raise the profile of the RSPB’s project and encourage others to get involved and support swifts in their area. Whilst I write this I can hear the calls of swifts outside the window of my third floor flat in Leicester. Remember that if you see or hear swifts, do submit your sighting here. Like, I just did.