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National survey to save the swift 15.05.14

by Linda McGrory

A NATIONAL survey is underway to protect a little bird that would give a busy airline a run for its money.
The swift, a popular summer visitor, can fly a staggering five million kilometres during its lifespan of up to 21 years. The speedy, swooping little creature spends virtually all its life on the wing.
But it has been in decline in Ireland in recent decades due to several factors including the loss of nest sites, food and changing climate patterns.
BirdWatch Ireland is now appealing for volunteers to take part in a National Swift Survey to help identify breeding sites across the country. Volunteers are also needed for a Dublin Swift Survey to help identify and map breeding sites in the capital city.
The organisation's recent Countryside Bird Survey revealed an "alarming" 39 per cent decline in the swift population in the past 15 years.
"Reasons for their decline remain unknown, but it is thought that the loss of available nest sites due to the renovation of old buildings and the impacts of climate change could be significant factors," said BirdWatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch.
A drop in the availability of flying insects as a food source, due to a succession of wet summers, is also threatening the bird’s survival.
The swift (Irish: Gabhlán gaoithe), also colloquially known as the 'screecher' or 'jack squealer' can be mistaken for swallows, house martins and sand martins.
 The Swift, a little bird that would give a busy airline a run for its money.
However, it is distinguishable from these species by its all-dark plumage and lack of white belly.
"Information collected through these surveys will help our knowledge of swifts so that more nest sites can be provided and protected," added Mr Hatch.
BirdWatch Ireland will shortly host a number of National Swift Survey events in Dublin, Mayo, Kildare and Cork and volunteers are invited to go along.
For more information email swifts@birdwatchireland.ie .
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