Tag Archives: swifts

Bird Ringing

 The comings and goings of the swifts and swallows near our house has always fascinated me and it seems it has fascinated other bird watchers over the years.

About the 12th Century in Germany a Prior in a Monastery fixed a parchment to a swallow’s leg asking –


‘Swallow where do you live in winter’

The following spring the Prior received the reply attached to the swallow’s leg

‘In Asia, the home of Petrus’.


Amazing.  What a simple idea.  How did the Prior catch the swallow?  Did he expect a reply? 

From that piece of parchment it was discovered that swallows flew from Germany to Asia. 


About 1740 a man called Johann Leonard Frisch tied some wool to swallows’ legs. 

He wanted to find out if the same swallow returned to the same nest year after year. 

The following Spring he found out that they do!


I anticipate the return of the swifts and swallows every Spring and know they return to us from warmer climates.

 I have never considered that  a swallows disappearance may once have been a mystery to people. 

Although I remember I was told  that many years ago people thought that swifts and swallows hibernated in winter!  I didn’t believe that fact, but now wonder if it’s true.

Bird ringing in Britain has been going on since 1937. 

  • Numbered metal rings which carry a return address are used. 
  • The records are put on a computer and stored using an international standard method of recording.

Here are two amazing facts have been found by bird ringing.

  • A swallow has been recorded as covering nearly a quarter of a million miles on its migration journies.  This was over a period of 16 years.  A 16 year old swallow!

It’s interesting to see what happened in the past.

  • In 1963 during the cold winter a redwing flew 2,400 miles in three days searching for food. 

Birds still search for food.  We cannot help swallows but we can help other birds. – so help a bird.  Feed a bird!

Swifts could be extinct in 20 years

Swift numbers are dropping alarmingly and there is a chance swifts could be extinct within 20 years.

There has been a 40% drop in the numbers of migatory birds over the last 15 years.

Swifts  used to be able to nest –

  • In open eaves
  • under loose roof tiles
  • in holes in walls

Because of repairs and modern building techniquest these nesting sites are no longer there.

Eaves are

  • sealed
  • or fitted with slatted grilles

Tiles are now

  • fitted without gaps.


All swifts need is

  • a tiny edge of a gable or under an eave

  • for new buildings you can buy nesting boxes very cheaply.

Swifts make a 14,000 mile return journey to winter in South Africa. It is sad that there is nowhere for them to nest when they get here.


There are many ways we can help the swift. 

You do not have to have a garden to help the Swift.  It is nesting sites they need and they can be provided without a garden.



A lot of birds are declining in numbers the sparrow and the swift are but two of them.  I hope this is a good year for our feathered friends. 

Last year I thought we had fewer swallows stay the summer than normal.

I get a lot of birds in my garden every day and sometimes forget how their numbers are dropping.

It’s good to think we can help.  I have a sparrow nesting in a bird box I put up.  I put a variety of bird food out every day.

Hedges, shrubs and trees that were planted before I was born give food and shelter to a lot of birds near to where I live.

It would be great if everyone in Britain just took a little time to help out native birds.  Here’s hoping.