Swift Survey

Swifts are present in the country for a shorter time than any other bird. The "10 year average" arrival date is 24th April and they have usually gone by early September.

The bulk of the population breeds in suburban areas, usually in older buildings. The nest is usually inside a cavity in the roof space or walls of buildings.
Displaying birds fly rapidly over the roof of the building containing the nest, whilst calling loudly. These are called screaming parties. In bad weather the parents may abandon the nest site to search for food and the chicks have the ability to go torpid to reduce their energy requirements and retard their development.

In 1995/6 a survey, organised by CAWOS, was held covering all of Cheshire.
The results for the SECOS area were:

Area No of birds No of colonies
Shavington 25 1
Willaston 16 1
Wistaston 30 1
Crewe - South 208 10
Crewe - North East 55 4
Crewe - North West 537 6*
Haslington 121 2
Alsager 34 5
Sandbach Not counted
Holmes Chapel 15 ?
Middlewich 81 ?
Congleton 248 ?

* including the largest in Cheshire with 450 birds.


and in 2001 SECOS conducted a survey within its own recording area. The results of 2001 survey can be viewed here.

2019 Survey

The aim of the 2019 Survey was to find the location of all breeding colonies and the total number of summering Swifts in the SECOS area. To use this data to compare with the 1995/6 and 2001 surveys.

By visiting potentially suitable nesting habitats (older houses and buildings) and listening for screaming parties, which can often be heard over 400 yards away, and looking for circling Swifts we aimed to count the number of birds flying round and screaming low over the breeding site. Then recording all required known details on the survey form.

Timing is very important for an accurate count to be obtained. The best time is the first week in June. However it is more important that the weather conditions are right and it is essential to only count when it is warm and dry with no, or very light, wind. If conditions are not right in the first week in June, please wait until they are before making your count. It is also essential to get the time of day right. Birds tend to gather round the nesting colony from mid-evening but peak numbers are usually obtained after 8:30pm.  Beyond 10:00pm the birds tend to drift away for the night. So please count between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.

It was not intended to specify a search area for everybody involved. However, we have members located throughout the SECOS area so if everybody took a recording form and just looked around their locality we should cover the whole of the SECOS Recording Area.

The summary of results for the 2019 survey can be downloaded here

If you need advice or information please contact John Thompson

Scroll to top