Swifts secrets to be uncovered using GPS tracking

A new project to discover where migrant birds are nesting in Northern Ireland has been launched.

Pair of migrating Swifts, Apus apus,  in the sky in Gloucestershire, UK

Throughout this summer, dozens of swifts will be fitted with GPS ‘backpacks’ in a bid to shed light on key feeding areas – something which has previously been impossible to monitor.

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The UK swift population has declined dramatically in recent years due to the loss of nesting sites. As swifts can feed many miles away from where they nest, it’s vital that conservationists know where they are nesting and feeding in order to protect the sites.

Experts will safely capture the swifts, some of which have been previously tagged, to fit them with newly developed miniature tracking devices.  The partnership between RSPB Northern Ireland, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Northern Ireland Swift Group is a first for conservation science in Northern Ireland.

Kendrew Colhoun, from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, said: “We live in particularly exciting times as research biologists as new smaller technology is making the previously impossible possible. It is a privilege to work with such remarkable birds and have the opportunity to collect this valuable information which will aid with our conservation efforts for this species.”

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The RSPB is launching a new national ‘Swift Cities Project’ to stop and reverse the decline of swifts through raising public awareness. You can help by sending your sightings to the RSPB Swift Survey at rspb.org.uk/swiftsurvey