Forest Hill SE23 & Lewisham Borough Swift Group

Forest Hill SE23 & Lewisham Borough Swift Group

At a glance


  • Animals / wildlife
  • Campaigning
  • Environment
  • Local / community

Other details

Geographical remit: 


Forest Hill SE23 & Lewisham Borough Swift Group was set up two years ago to help preserve and protect our local swift populations and raise awareness about them. Swifts are remarkable birds who come to the UK every May to August from Africa to breed. They nest in the tiny crevices and gaps high up in our buildings - under eaves, roof tiles, behind guttering and anywhere where there is a hole they can slip into. Swift numbers have plummeted by over 50% in the last 20 years and they are now a conservation priority - much the same as bats. One of the prime reasons behind their decline is thought to be loss of their nest sites through building repairs, renovations and demolitions.

Swifts are very inconspicuous and make no mess so many people are completely unaware that they have swifts nesting in their building. Whilst this keeps swifts safe from predators it makes them vulnerable and often their nest sites are blocked up without property owners realising. Swifts are nest and partner faithful - they come back to the same site every year. For some, they will come back from their long journey from central Africa to find their nest has gone. This causes much desperation and frenzy amongst swifts and curtails their breeding. As a group we aim to provide new nest sites for swifts and protect existing ones. This involves encouraging property owners, planners, schools and more to install swift boxes under their eaves.

We do survey work to find out where swifts are already nesting so we can protect those sites and we hold events to raise awareness amongst the local community. Swifts are an important part of our urban biodiversity that needs safeguarding. We have already identified the largest swift colony we have ever come across in London and stopped renovation works from happening that would have wiped the colony out. The builders delayed the works until the swifts left back for Africa and over the winter they carried out the roof works, incorporating special spaces for swifts so they still have their nest spaces when they return. 


We leaflet local areas asking residents if they would like to host swift nest boxes. We visit properties to advise where best to place boxes. We have information tables and local events and fairs to raise awareness. We are in contact with planners, councillors and are now part of the Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership, further helping to highlight the swifts cause in local planning. 

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