Swifts back in the houses of power – but still no action

This week the House of Lords rang loud with love, positivity and promises towards making Swift bricks mandatory in all new housing. But, as yet, we still don’t have any firm commitment.

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A Swift flying in the foreground with another Swift in the back over the sea.
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Swifts back in the spotlight 

Most UK Swifts have flown south for the winter by now, their screams a fading summer memory. But on Wednesday (6 September) these aerial masters were back in the houses of power as Peers in the House of Lords discussed whether to make Swift bricks compulsory in new housing.  

An entire Swift nest box laid on a concrete slab with grass in the background.

Why the Lords’ debate happened 

The Lords’ debate took place after an amendment was put forward by Peer Zac Goldsmith. He, together with hundreds of thousands of others, including the RSPB, have been rallying behind Hannah Bourne-Taylor’s campaign to make Swift bricks compulsory in new builds. The bricks are an easy and cheap way to provide nest sites for these Red-Listed birds and others like House Martins and House Sparrows.  

Hannah’s #FeatherSpeech led to a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons in July, when MPs from different political parties spoke passionately in support of the motion. But the Ministers and Shadow Ministers fell short of committing to making Swift bricks mandatory.  

The latest debate 

On Wednesday many of the Peers present at the Lords’ debate also spoke passionately in favour of Swift bricks. There was cross party support, talk of it being a ‘no-brainer’ and many pledging to make this happen. But despite these positive words there was no firm commitment to accept the amendment and write mandatory Swift bricks into law. 

A new hope?  

Despite this latest setback, all is not lost. Yesterday ministers outlined how the UK government will look to implement Swift bricks into planning policy instead of law. Writing Swift bricks into law would have been a stronger basis to ensure action, and be much harder for any Government to change or walk away from in the future. But policy changes, if made well, can still make a big difference.

We’ll be watching and holding the UK Government to its word. We’ll continue to stand by Hannah and the #FeatherSpeech campaign and do all we can to give Swifts and other Red-Listed birds this much needed boost.

A juvenile Swift perched at the end of a tree stump.

Why Swifts need our help 

Swifts only spend a few months in the UK each year, migrating here from Africa every spring to raise their young. But these noisy neighbours are now on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK, with their numbers falling by 62% between 1995 and 2021. The reasons behind their decline are not yet fully understood but loss of suitable nesting sites is part of the problem. They usually nest in small gaps high up on buildings and when buildings are renovated or demolished, Swift nests are lost. 

The Swift Brick  

This is where internal swift bricks come in. These are an easy and cheap way to provide nest sites for Swifts that can be simply included in new housing developments or fitted into existing buildings. When they are, research shows they are help not only for Swifts, but other wildlife, including Red Listed species such as House Sparrows, Starlings and House Martins. 

Follow the #FeatherSpeech 
To find out the latest updates on Hannah’s campaign, you can follow her on X.  

A man wearing Hi Vis and a hard hat installing a Swift Brick into the roof of a house.

Speak up for what matters to you 

Hannah’s campaign has shown we can have a powerful voice for nature when we speak up together. Join us as a RSPB campaigner and we’ll give you guidance and support to fight for the nature issues you care about most. 

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