Return of Swifts
Will Common Swift and bats survive in the Slovak cities?
Non-governmental organizations and experts in Slovakia have been stressing negative impact of thermal insulation of prefabs on populations of birds and bats for several years. One of the most threatened species by these activities is Common Swift. Swifts have adapted to nesting in buildings due to the loss of their natural nesting habitats (e.g. hollow trees, rocks). Recently almost 100% of the population of Common Swift in Slovakia is nesting in buildings in cities and especially prefabs provide suitable nesting sites not-easily accessible by predators. Thermal insulation of prefabs has become an intensive and popular technology in Slovakia, particularly concerning old houses built back in 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately this technology is applies especially during the most sensitive reproduction period of Swifts. In several cities it has led to a rapid decreasing of populations of Swifts or even to their complete disappearance from the cities.
Swifts’ nests can be found usually in ventilation holes or crevices between panels on prefabricated houses. In the same places and also in small hollow spaces under roofs colonies of bats can be found as well. Thermal insulation and reconstruction works often result in destruction of these nesting and roosting sites and trapping and killing of birds and bats inside buildings. The most critical period of the year is between April and August when the Swifts are taking care of their eggs, hatchlings and young birds. Swifts are strongly bound to their nesting sites. If these are destroyed for the birds it is a problem to find a new suitable nesting site.
It needs to be understood that Swifts and bats do have their role in urban ecosystems and are important for keeping ecological balance. They feed mainly on mosquitoes; one Swift can catch 50 grams of mosquitoes and one bat can catch over 3000 mosquitoes just during a one night.
Common Swift and all bat species occurring in Slovakia are listed as protected. Economic value of one individual of Swift is 165 EUR, economic value of one individual of bat varies between 165 EUR and 330 EUR, depending on the species. By entering the European Union Slovakia has committed itself to ensure appropriate protection of all species of the European importance, including birds and bats. If this commitment is not fulfilled there is a risk of high financial penalties to be paid by Slovakia to the European Union. If this happens it will be all of us to contribute via taxes.
Professional conservationists as well as public have been critical about bad timing and technologies applied during reconstruction of buildings. There are several species-friendly techniques implemented in other European countries that can be easily transferred and applied in Slovakia. Positive results of cooperation between ecologists and engineers and architects – e.g. timing-adjustment of construction, displacement of bat colonies from prefabs, preserving of existing nesting/roosting sites, installation of special boxes for Swifts and bats, can be observed already in several cities in Slovakia.
Since 2011 three NGOs – BROZ, SOS/BirdLife Slovakia and Slovak Bat Conservation Society (SON) have joined their forces to protect Swifts and bats in cities in Slovakia. One of the results is a joint project Protection of Common Swift (Apus apus) and bats in buildings in Slovakia introduced to you via this website. Within the project several actions have been implemented, including monitoring of populations of Swifts and bats in all cities in the country. Data are stored and processed in an on-line database available for experts and public, including construction companies, architects, and decision makers. The project is financially supported by the European Commission through the LIFE+ programme and by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic.
Public is invited to participate in the project’s implementation through providing data about occurrence of bats and birds in buildings or information about planning and/or ongoing reconstruction of buildings. Any information that seems to be unimportant can help us to save the species.
We believe that you will find not only interesting information about birds and bats but also a motivation to actively contribute to their protection for future generations.
We look forward to further cooperation with you.
The Project Team.
Help us in monitoring of Swifts and bats
Monitoring of Common Swifts - methodology (in Slovak), field form (in Slovak)
Monitoring of bats - methodology (in Slovak), field form (in Slovak)
Online database AVES Symfony - click HERE