RSPB helps develop brick that gives swifts a home
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The RSPB has teamed up with Manthorpe Building Products and Barratt Homes to develop a brick that doubles as a nesting box for swifts.

RSPB – the UK’s largest nature conservation charity – says thaf swift numbers have almost halved in 20 years and that new nesting boxes are needed to help numbers recover as they return to the UK to breed every summer.

Swifts complete a 6,000 mile migration to nest in the UK. However with falling population numbers there are now less than 90,000 breeding pairs arriving in the UK, down from almost 150,000 pairs two decades ago. Part of this decline is being linked to a reduction in potential nesting sites.

British manufacturer Manthorpe Building Products has worked with RSPB and Barratt Homes to produce the new swift brick, which is designed for easy incorporation during the construction of new homes.

The first new swift nest boxes have just been fitted at the Kingsbrook development in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. In total Barratt will be installing up to 900 of the swift boxes in new homes at Kingsbrook.

Providing more nesting sites for swifts has been one of the aims of the partnership between RSPB and Barratt Homes, which launched in 2014 to look at how nature and wildlife could be incorporated into new communities. Working together, they commissioned Manthorpe to develop a new swift nest box design that could be easily installed during construction.

Michael Finn, group design and technical director at Barratt Developments, said: “The bricks are an industry first – they are fully drained, ventilated and are unobtrusive, by matching the colour of the bricks. They also help nurture chicks by giving them room to stand when they hatch. Crucially too, they are much, much cheaper than any other swift brick on the market, which will help their uptake. We actively want other developers to use the brick so we can all help build swift populations. It’s a great example of how we are working together with the RSPB and the wider industry to support nature.”

Darren Moorcroft, RSPB’s head of species and habitats conservation, said: “The swift is an iconic species, its appearance announces the start of summer as they swoop and soar above our gardens. Sadly like many UK species the swift is in trouble, their numbers have dropped dramatically, putting them at risk of disappearing completely from the UK.

“We are working hard to reverse this decline. In previous centuries builders would often create spaces for swifts, but these techniques have fallen out of practice with modern homes. Our partnership with Barratt Homes has allowed us to share ideas and look at how we can bring this practice back in a way that works for builders, home owners and the swifts.”

Gareth Wright, sales director at Manthorpe Building Products, said: “The product is already gaining a lot of interest and due to its ease of fitting and competitive price builders are able to incorporate this product into their new homes with no disruption to the build and no need to incorporate any design changes to existing house types.”