Establishing a Swift colony

July 2019 – soon after relocating to The Cotswolds we took an early morning walk along the local bridleway which is flanked by mile-long hedgerows. A pair Swifts rifled towards us barely a metre off the ground and hurtled straight past. Such an agile and impressive sight.

In the summer months we continue to admire Swifts overhead and watch them effortlessly zip between the rooftops.

With the house offering a high, north-facing gable, in 2021-22 we decided to install nest boxes to help establish a colony of Swifts. The boxes would need to be installed by May 2022 in time for arrival of the Swifts.


Swift nesting boxes are available from various suppliers and DIY designs are also readily available. We opted for a DIY, Dutch Zeist-style nesting box in 12mm external ply and then modified the design to include a bat roost (12mm). Joints were glued and screwed. There was space for four boxes (400mm) to be slung from a timber ledger bolted +6mtr up the house gable wall. Nest cups are Bristol Swifts pattern. The addition of a Peak Boxes sound system aims to attract Swift interest.


• 12mm external ply (2400 x 1200)
• Timber ledger drilled (1500 x 75 x 45)
uPVA glue
• Screws (various lengths) + rawlplug (#7)
Masonry HEX bolts (M8 x 100mm #5)
Carriage bolts (M6 x 70mm) + washer (#10)
• Mending plates (#2)
Exterior woodcare
Peak Boxes sound system (2x speakers)
• Cable clips (#6)
• Digital timer plug

Project cost £120 – £150


Safe and efficient work at height requires careful planning because gravity has little time for fools. From the outset, the design placed working at height at the core. Components were designed to facilitate easy handling and installation. For example:-

• timber ledger drilled and fitted with counter-sunk masonry HEX bolts
• speakers pre-mounted on the ledger for connection to an MP3 player in the house loft
• each nesting box had a rear jointing plate with screw hole ready drilled
• roof jointed in 2 parts
• the complete assembly proved at ground level.

A stand-off was used to help stabilize the extension ladder which was also footed at all times.

What next?

The Peak Boxes sound system operates using a digital timer – 2hrs in early morning, an hour at lunchtime and 2hrs early evening.

The nesting boxes have been recorded on the RSPB Swift Mapper which will be updated when a pair of Swifts nest (we hope).

Advice and thanks to

Swift Conservation
Bristol Swifts

Text and images © SR. Hartley

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