20 Aug 2022

Swift action: Conservation project underway in Limerick to save birds on Red list

Swift action: Conservation project underway in Limerick to save birds on Red list

Nest boxes have been installed at five locations in Limerick

AN ambitious conservation project to save Swifts - a small migratory bird is underway in Limerick.

Swifts, which weigh as little as a Cadbury’s Cream Egg, are fascinating birds which spend most of their lives in constant flight only ever landing to nest.

A project that aims to entice Swifts to stay briefly and breed in purpose-build nest-boxes at five locations in Limerick city is underway.

In one of the first multi-stakeholder projects of its kind in Ireland, Limerick City and County Council is collaborating with several other organisations and groups to support the Awift population in Limerick as part of Limerick’s European Green Leaf City legacy projects.

The other organisation are: BirdWatch Ireland’s Urban Bird Conservation Officer, Limerick city parish (Church of Ireland), The Hunt Museum, Shannon Heritage, St Mary’s Parish Men’s Shed, the Limerick Branch of BirdWatch Ireland and Limerick City Centre Tidy Towns.

The number of Swifts has declined by approximately 40% across Ireland in the last 10 years and the species has been moved onto the RED List in the recently released Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2020-2026 (4th edition).

The new nest boxes, which can accommodate up to 39 individual nests, have been installed at The Hunt Museum, St Mary’s Cathedral, City Hall at Merchant’s Quay, King John’s Castle Exhibition Centre and the Louvres of St Michael’s Church on Barrington Street.

A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council explained an unusual birdcall, which can be heard at each of he five locations, is, in face a lure licenced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The lure emits the sound of the Swifts call attracting birds to the site.

"This increases the chances of attracting ‘first time’ nesters to the sites. The volume on the lure is on a timer and set to normal birdsong levels," he said.

Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Collins has welcomed the conservation project: “Great credit is due to all of the organisations involved and I wish this collaborative project every success and hope that a new generation of Limerick Swifts will fledge in the summer of 2021," he said.

Ricky Whelan, Urban Bird Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland added: “Swifts only need to land to breed. They are summer visitors to Ireland from Southern Africa, arriving in May and remaining until early September. We cannot be sure that the nest boxes will be occupied in this year but fingers crossed they will occupy them in years to come. With wildlife projects you always need a little luck.”

Limerick Branch of BirdWatch Ireland, Maura Tuner said the organisation is thrilled to have helped get the project underway. "We look forward to monitoring the nest-boxes over the summer of 2021. It may take a number of years for the Swifts to take up residence but we are committed to the cause and will keep working to conserve Limericks breeding swifts.”

Helen O’Donnell from Limerick City Centre Tidy Towns said: “A Swift nest box project was recommended in our 2019 Tidy Towns Report. We would like to give a particular mention to St. Mary’s Men’s Shed for building some of the boxes that are installed in St. Marys Cathedral. It is just wonderful to see a project like this come to fruition. Now, let’s hope the swifts like what has been built for them.”

As part of the Limerick City Swift Nest Box project the Council’s European Green Leaf team along with the successful quoting contractor MP Joyce Contracting, Patrickswell, will be compiling a case study on the project which will allow other buildings in the city to build in Swift nest boxes as part of routine renovation works or as new builds.

Download the BirdWatch Ireland - Saving Swifts guide here.

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