RSPB Northern Ireland is appealing for local people to help them build up a picture of the number of swifts across the country.
Swifts are amazing birds which travel around 12,000 miles every year from Africa to the UK and Ireland to feed and breed.
They are acrobatic masters, swooping high through the skies with their distinctive scythe-shaped wings. In fact, they are such adept fliers that they eat and sleep on the wing, not touching the ground unless they are raising chicks.
Swifts like to nest in the cracks and crevices of buildings, high up in the eaves. They pair for life, meeting up each spring at the same nest site which is ‘renovated’ and reused year after year.
Unfortunately, as old buildings are fixed up or demolished, these sites are often lost.
That means can be difficult for a displaced pair to find a new suitable place in time to lay eggs and raise a brood before it’s time to head back to warmer climes in August.
The population of swifts in the UK has declined dramatically in recent years and, as a result, the species is now amber-listed (of medium conservation concern).
In order to help them, the RSPB first needs to know where they’ve been spotted and where they’re nesting.
Look out for low-level, roof-height screaming groups of swifts (that means they’re breeding nearby) or where you’ve seen swifts nesting - perhaps entering a roof or hole in a building. The best time to look is around dusk on a warm, still evening, or early morning.
The charity is urging people to log their findings at www.rspb.org.uk/applications/swiftsurvey. If you haven’t seen or heard any swifts in your area, this is also important information!