The Oxford Swift City project will officially launch on Saturday 6 May. This exciting two-year project, made possible by National Lottery players and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), hopes to improve the outlook for swifts in Oxford by raising local awareness of the many ways we can help these vulnerable birds. To mark the project launch, events will be taking place on the front lawn at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on the 6 and 7 May.

The Oxford Swift City project team is made up of several local partners including the RSPB, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, Environmental Resource Management, Dr. A. Lack, Dr. J. Hughes, Mr. C. Mason, Oxford City Council, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, and the University of Oxford.

Swifts are truly Olympian birds; landing only to breed, they can fly at least 560 miles a day gathering food – sleeping, eating and even mating on the wing. They also rely on humans for their survival, nesting almost exclusively in urban areas. But the swift faces an uncertain future. Numbers in the UK have fallen by 47% since 1995.

One possible cause of the swifts’ decline may be that, as old buildings are renovated and new ones go up, they do not include enough spaces for the birds to nest. To address this, the Oxford Swift City project will conduct extensive research into present swift populations in Oxford, and use this information to work closely with builders and planners to maintain and incorporate nest sites in the city’s infrastructure.

Lucy Hyde, Oxford Swift City Project Officer, said: “The launch of the Oxford Swift City project marks an important new chapter for our city’s swifts. This wonderful community project will provide local residents with a great opportunity to not only learn more about this fun, iconic bird, but to take action themselves to help give swifts a home in Oxford. Whether it’s planting wildflowers in your garden, putting up a swift nestbox or recording a swift sighting, there are lots of ways for residents to get involved.”

Chris Jarvis, Education Officer at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said: “As the site of the longest-running continuous study of swifts in the world we’re thrilled to be part of the Oxford Swift City project. The project will help us to deliver educational and public programmes that celebrate our iconic summer visitors and help to encourage people in Oxford to get involved in conserving and studying these beautiful birds.”

Mai Jarvis, Environmental Quality Team Manager at Oxford City Council, said: “The City Council is very excited to see the launch of the Oxford Swift City project. Swifts have a special relationship with the city of Oxford and we are pleased to be partnering with the RSPB in conserving this amazing bird.”

All of the organisations involved in this project would like to thank HLF for their very generous support. Without it, this project would not be able to happen.

Ways to get involved

The Oxford community will be vital to the success of this project, and you can get involved in a variety of ways. Please contact oxfordswiftcity@rspb.org.ukfor more information.
Come along to an event

Visit us on the front lawn of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History from 12pm – 4pm on 6, 7 and 13 May to learn more about these amazing birds, including activities for kids such as seed bomb making, and the opportunity to make your very own swift! Meet the team and find out how you can get involved in giving swifts a home.
If you can’t make one of these events, we’ll also be taking part in the Oxford Festival of Nature – visit us at Wildfair on 3 June, come on a swift walk on 7 June, or grab a ticket to a beautiful choral performance by Commotio Choir on 10 June.

Volunteer

Volunteers are needed to help monitor swift numbers by taking part in ‘Swift Surveys’, starting in May – there’s still time to sign up to help if you would like to join in! Each volunteer surveys a 500x500m square in their neighbourhood, within the Oxford City Council boundary, two evenings a month during May, June and July. We provide all the information and resources you need. All ages welcome. This is a great opportunity to get outdoors and connect with nature, whilst assisting with invaluable conservation research.

Swift Tower competition

Submit your design for a new Swift Tower! We’re looking for imaginative designs for a new tower to provide some much-needed new homes for swifts. The winning design will be built in Oxford, and showcased at an exhibition in the Town Hall. The winners of each category – under 12s, 13-18, adult (professional) and adult (non-professional) – will also have their design exhibited, and will receive a swift nestbox. The first 50 entries in the under 12s category will receive a pack of wildflower seeds. For more information, please email oxfordswiftcity@rspb.org.uk. Closing date for all entries is 30 June 2017.