Swift Action for Roofing Contractors

April 26 2019 0comment

Swift Action for Roofing Contractors

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A while ago we published some information and advice for roofing contractors on what to do if they discover bats nesting in roof spaces on which they are working.  Today we’re going to take a look at another creature that is due to start building nests here in the UK – the swift.  Although the swift closely resembles the swallow, the similarities are merely superficial and they are not as closely related as they first appear.

Swifts spend most of their time in the air and are some of the fastest birds on the planet, having reached speeds of up to 105 mph!  In a single year, the average swift will fly around 200,000 miles, although they don’t benefit from air miles the way most human seasoned travellers do.  Swifts live on most continents (apart from Antarctica) and they migrate to the tropics each winter.  As such they only spend a few months a year in the UK, arriving in late April and usually leaving for warmer climes in August.  Over the past two decades, the number of swifts arriving in the UK each year has halved and it’s thought that a major reason for this is the loss of nesting sites.  

Swifts flock to the UK each year to build their nests in the cracks and crevices they find behind soffits, fascias and rooftiles of buildings across the land.  Swifts return to the same nesting site each year and often find their nesting place has disappeared due to maintenance and renovation work that has plugged the gaps in which they build their homes.  Swifts are clean birds and their nests disintegrate quickly, leaving no trace, so they should be viewed as welcome visitors, rather than pests.

Roofing contractors are being advised to protect existing nests by working around them if possible in order to leave their entrance hole undisturbed.  If you do come across an active swift nest, it’s vital to be aware that all birds’ nests and eggs are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it’s an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird which is in use or being built.  Work should be halted immediately until the young have flown the nest or until you have sought further advice.

In cases where you find the remains of nests, it’s vital that you mark the location of the entrance hole before blocking it up.  Before refurbishing, a self-contained nesting box should be installed between the joists and a new entrance hole made in the soffit at the same point as the entrance hole.  The entrance hole should be 28mm x 65mm – the measurements are vital as birds will only nest in a box that has the right size hole for its species. 

For any roofing contractors working on new builds or major refurbs, it’s worth considering including a nesting site for swifts.  The most convenient form is a “swift brick”, which can easily be installed by removing a brick and replacing it with the swift brick.  This will provide swifts with a nesting cavity in which to lay eggs and raise chicks and a swift brick is robust enough to last the entire lifetime of the building.  

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