Swift arrivals and when to play Swift calls

For those of you with new Swift nest boxes, (or for anyone who wishes to attract Swifts to nest boxes that have been installed for some time without being visited by Swifts), here are some tips about how to use a Swift calling system to attract Swifts to your nest boxes.

  • Play swift calls for at least an hour after dawn and for an hour before dusk on calm, dry days from May to July. This is when the Swifts will be socialising and interested in hearing other Swifts calling! It can also be worth playing the caller on warm sunny days when you hear and see Swifts overhead.
  • The speaker should be as near to the nest box as possible and in a place where it will be protected from the weather. It can be fixed inside the box if you make sure that the entrance and exit remain clear for the Swifts. It could also be fixed under the box or on a nearby windowsill. “Action for Swifts” have found that speakers placed to point to the skies can be effective even if placed at ground level.
  • Louder is better - but you may need to compromise by adjusting the volume to accommodate your neighbours.

There are normally three waves of swift arrivals.

The first wave

Mature breeding adults, of three years or older, returning to their traditional nest sites normally arrive in the last week of April to early May. It is difficult to attract these to a new box as they are extremely site faithful. However, it is possible that displaced breeding adults from homes that have been renovated or demolished during their absence will be looking for new homes.

The second wave

Swifts that are two years old and looking for their first nest site, and a mate, start to arrive from the middle of May. This is peak time for playing your calls! The Swifts will fly up to investigate wherever the sound is coming from. If you are lucky enough to attract a pair, they will spend the rest of the Summer building a new nest ready for breeding next year.

Three year old Swifts who located a promising nest site during the previous season may fly straight to it and start breeding. 

The third wave

Yearlings returning for the first time arrive in the middle of July. These Swifts are interested in joining a colony and will visit several in the local area to investigate the best ones. They might even enter one of your boxes, roosting in it until they leave in August! They will not start building a nest until the following year. They are also attracted by calls, so play as described above.

Thanks to Bristol Swifts Group, Action for Swifts UK and Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation for this advice.

If you have any queries about your Swift nest box or calling system, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be pleased to help: lewesswifts@gmail.com

Thinking of buying a Swift calling system?

  • Peak boxes sell a multi-bird call sound system which comes with a pre-recorded Swift call on a USB stick.
  • Swift Conservation sell recordings of calls on CD or MP3 from £2.00 if you already have something to play them on. They also share a link to Andrew Porter, who makes and sells Swift callers on a not-for-profit basis: swiftcallboxes@gmail.com

How to set up your calling system

This video explains how to set up the calling systems sold by Peak Boxes.