Nature makes swift return to Argyll

Argyll Bird Club Survey is hoping that with readers' help they can find out the size of the breeding population and where they remain. Photograph: Jim Dickson

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Before coronavirus restrictions were imposed, Argyll Bird Club provided monthly field trip outings around mainland Argyll led by experienced bird watchers.

With most bird surveying suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the club is relieved it has now chosen a species which can be surveyed from home within government advice.

Swifts are slightly larger than swallows and have an all-dark plumage with a short forked tail. They feed on flying insects and spend most of their life in the air – including when they sleep – usually coming down to earth to breed. They are fast fliers, often chasing one another over buildings when they give a screeching call.

Swifts arrive back in Argyll in early May and breed in towns, villages and other buildings in Argyll. They spend around three months in Argyll, departing early-mid August to their wintering grounds in Africa.

The British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey indicates the population of Swifts in Scotland has declined by around 60 per cent since 1995. A similar decline has taken place in England and Wales. The reasons for the decline are not fully known but are believed to be related to changes in insect numbers and a lack of nesting sites as buildings are modernised.

Argyll is at the north-western limit of the world range of Swifts. Their distribution and numbers in Argyll is not well-known and the purpose of the Argyll Bird Club Survey is to try to find out the size of the breeding population and where they remain.

If you have a Swift nesting in your building, or near you, or would like to take part in this survey further information is available at

For more information about Argyll Bird Club, email Jim Dickson at