This survey is a collaboration between Falkirk Council and TWIC, aiming to gather up-to-date information on breeding Common Swifts (Apus apus) in the wider Falkirk area.

Common Swifts are long-distance migrants and summer visitors to the UK between May and August. They are medium-sized birds that spend almost their entire lives in the air – only landing at nest sites. Swifts pair for life and return to the same nest site every year. They can be found nesting in buildings.

However, home improvements and renovations can mean there are fewer nest sites for them to return to. There has been a 62% decline in numbers in the UK between 1995 and 2022 (Heywood et al., 2023) and they appear on the Red List on the latest Birds of Conservation Concern review (Stanbury et al., 2021), indicating they are a high conservation priority.

We need your help!

Please help us by reporting nesting Swifts or where you have seen ‘screaming parties’ – groups of Swifts flying fast and low at roof-height and screaming, which indicates that they are nesting nearby.

You can submit records by completing one of our survey postcards, by emailing or by adding your sighting to RSPB Swift Mapper. Emailed sightings must include the date of your sighting, what you saw (nest or screaming party), place seen (street name and town/village and postcode) and location (grid reference/ What3Words). If you have photos please supply these to help us verify your sightings.

All data collected (excluding data submitted to RSPB Swift Mapper website) will be uploaded by TWIC to NBN Atlas Scotland under an Open Government Licence 3.0 on behalf of Falkirk Council so that it is widely available to inform decision making, conservation and research.

How can I identify a Swift?

Swifts are plain, dark brown in colour with a white throat. The throat colour can be difficult to see when in flight against the sky. In this instance, look for their strong, curved, crescent or sickle-shaped wings and a short, forked tail. You will also often hear the distinctive screaming calls of Swifts before you see them!

Other birds that could be confused with Swifts are Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbicum). Swallows are dark above, but have a white underside, dark throat and a much longer forked tail. House Martins are much smaller than Swallows and Swifts, have a small, forked tail and have a white underside and white rump. You can find more information on how to identify Swifts and the differences between them and other bird species at the following resources:

Common Swift by Etienne Gosse, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Heywood, J.J.N., Massimino, D., Balmer, D.E., Kelly, L., Noble, D.G., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Woodcock, P., Wotton, S., Gillings, S. & Harris, S.J. (2023) The Breeding Bird Survey 2022. BTO Research Report 756. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

Stanbury, A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A., Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G. & Win, I (2021) The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds (vol. 114).

Image by Etienne Gosse via Wikimedia Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.