A swift survey to monitor state of Limerick birds

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The common swift.

SWIFTS, which were once a common sight in Limerick but are now on the conservation list for birds, are the subject of a survey being undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland throughout the city and county over the summer months.

Swifts have declined by around 40 per cent across Ireland in the last ten years and are on the red list, which is the highest level of conservation concern, in the recently released Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2020-2026.

Weighing as little as a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, swifts spend most of their lives in constant flight, only ever landing to nest. They are monogamous and pair at an early stage but don’t actually breed until they are four years old.

They have a remarkable way of surviving bad weather and food shortages. Their eggs survive chilling at any stages of development if adults have to spend more time away from the nest foraging – something that would kill the embryos of any other bird.

The development of the egg will simply slow down until a parent returns. Bad weather can extend the incubation for four to five days.

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At any stage of development, swift chicks can survive long periods between feeds. During periods of bad weather, the adults sometimes move a long distance to find better conditions to feed themselves to survive.

Along with the BirdWatch Ireland survey, the Limerick City Swift Nest Box Project is now in its second year, with boxes at five locations.

These are  on the side of St Mary’s Cathedral; over the pollen patch at the council offices in Merchant’s Quay; at the former Tavern Inn on the river side of King John’s Castle; at the Hunt Museum facing the Potato Market and at St Michael’s Church looking on to the People’s Park.

People are encouraged to check out the nest boxes for activity – although some of the boxes could take a few seasons to take hold. Swifts have been seen paying particular attention to the nest box at Merchant’s Quay.

Anyone spotting the swifts flying in and around the boxes should report to [email protected] or [email protected]

Anyone aware of locations where swifts are active in Limerick City or County should  email Lisa Kavanagh at [email protected]