Lancaster declared a Swift City

18 June 2024
  • Lancaster has been declared a ‘Swift City’, one of just four in the UK.
  • A charter has been signed by residents, committing to safeguard the future of Swifts.
  • Saturday 29 June – Sunday 7 July is Swift Awareness week.

Lancaster has been officially declared a ‘Swift City’, one of just four of its kind in the UK.  In a ceremony this month, officials and residents set out plans committing to improving lives for Swifts in the city.

The official designation is the culmination of hard work, led by the residents of Grasmere Road, which was declared the first ‘Swift Street’ in Lancaster in 2022.

A ‘Swift Charter’ has been signed by residents, local politicians and community and conservation organisations highlighting the city’s pledge to protect the future of the birds.  The city has vouched to provide more nesting sites in the form of Swift boxes and install Swift bricks on new build houses.  Alongside a dedication to create more wildflower spaces to encourage and attract greater numbers of insects which the birds feed on.

In 2021, post Covid pandemic the residents of Grasmere Road started a community project to help Swifts in the city after hearing about declines in Swift numbers. Research suggests there has been a 60% reduction in Swift numbers in the UK in the last 25 years .  This is largely due to a loss of habitat and nesting sites and a decrease in insect numbers. 

The residents have erected Swift boxes and promoted Swift awareness locally.  Many of the boxes were constructed and provided by the Lancaster Men’s Hub, a social wellbeing and community charity group.  Grasmere Road alone has 30 nestboxes.

Alasdair Mckee, RSPB local groups development officer stated:

“Swifts mate for life and return to the same nest sites every year.  They are communal nesters and, putting up so many boxes in areas like these encourages more Swifts.  It’s a great way to develop a community of Swifts and people all working together for the same outcome.” 

Swifts travel to the UK in the summer to breed, flying over 3000 miles from Africa where they spend the winter.  They are one of the last of the breeding birds to arrive in the UK for the summer in late May or early June.  In recent decades the availability of nesting sites in the UK’s towns and cities has significantly decreased with more and more nest sites in the eaves of houses having been blocked up or destroyed. 

Alasdair added:

“There are other towns and cities across the country where similar projects are being undertaken.  So, there’s hope that Lancaster will not be the last of the UK’s Swift cities and that more will join with the same commitment to securing a more stable future for these iconic and long-distance travellers.”

Andrew McCafferty, local Lancaster resident said:

“I grew up in this area of Lancaster and still remember the sense of wonder I felt at the age of 10 looking up at a group of birds wheeling and screaming through the sky.  My fascination with Swifts hasn’t dwindled to this day.  It invokes a sense of pride to see so many people turn up here on Grasmere Road who care enough to eat Swift shaped biscuits in the street and sign a charter to endorse the future of Swifts in the city all whilst gazing up in awe as the birds swoop by.”

Other ways to help Swifts include reporting sightings on SwiftMapper, joining your local RSPB group and taking part in Swift awareness week 29 June-7 July Swift Awareness Week 2024 (

Find out how to make a Swift box with this RSPB YouTube video.

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