Nature Champions: Swift

A single swift flying in the air with a cloudless sky behind.

Swifts are summer migrants to the UK and arrive to breed here in May, returning from their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Swifts are our most aerial of birds, spending nearly all of their time on the wing, including feeding, mating and even sleeping! As an adaptation to this, they have very small feet. Most of their foot is made up of sharp claws, which they use to scrabble up walls and into their nest sites. Young birds are known as ‘bangers’ for their habit of knocking against prospective nest to see if they are already occupied. Although widespread throughout Scotland’s cities, towns and villages, the number of swifts has declined rapidly, with as many as 65% of our birds being lost between 1995 and 2015.

Action Needed

  • Support surveys for swifts and recording the birds on RSPB’s Swift Inventory.
  • Raise awareness to ensure that existing nest sites are protected particularly during the breeding season.
  • Ensure the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is fully implemented.


Loss of nest sites due to the refurbishment of buildings or lack of nest sites in new developments
Reduction in their invertebrate food
Problems on their migration route, including changes in the Sahara

MSP Nature Champion

Gordon MacDonald

Member for: Edinburgh Pentlands

Region: Lothian

Party: Scottish National Party

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.