Experiences in protecting and establishing nest sites for swifts in Annaberg-Buchholz
1993 - 1996
new nesting opportunities have been established
nest sites have been registered
hours of volunteer work were used for the project
leaflets about "The Swift" have been distributed all over Germany
institutes, museums, local authorities and others have requested advice
kilometres of public roads were repeatedly walked each year in order to chart nest sites
articles about swifts have been published in German newspapers and magazines
Origin of the "Save the Swift" program:
In 1987 we did a study of Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) in our area. This species was a common breeding bird in former years, but by 1987 the jackdaw had become extinct as a breeding bird and has not resettled the area since. One of the reasons for this decline was the destruction of the established nest sites because of changes in construction practice and closing up holes in existing buildings. We soon realized that something had to be done because there was a real danger the same would happen to the swifts.
Many old buildings had already been demolished which resulted in a loss of nest sites. Moreover, many juvenile swifts died when they were walled in during renovations (which happened in Annaberg). Our association decided to develop a program for charting and safeguarding existing nest sites as well as the creation of new nesting opportunities.
A brief history: Annaberg was founded in 1496 and Buchholz in 1501. In 1945 the Soviet occupying power united these two towns into Annaberg-Buchholz. The roughly 500 year old town with its boroughs Annaberg, Buchholz and Kleinrueckerswalde has approximately 24,000 inhabitants. Annaberg-Buchholz covers an area of 1,268 hectares (about 3,000 acres) and there are about 11,000 buildings with 75 km/40 miles of public roads. Many of the old buildings are in poor condition, although improvements have been in progress.
First it was necessary to map all existing nest sites in Annaberg and Buchholz. Funding for the project came from the environment department of the administrative district in Chemnitz.
The first part of the mapping project took place on 30 June 1993. The date was appropriate because all the nests were occupied by juveniles and the adults constantly flew to them. For this reason, we believe, our counting of nest sites was really accurate. This method takes a lot of time and sometimes the existence of a nest site was in doubt because of the habit of swifts to swirl around a building. So we also used another method and took accumulations of droppings on the pavement as proof for the existence of a nest site.
As we mapped the nest sites we realized that ongoing rebuilding and improvement of buildings constantly destroyed them. Many nest sites were lost and we looked for ways and possibilities to avoid that in the future.
Some of our statistics on nest sites:
1993 - 250 breeding pairs were charted
1994 - an additional 153 nest sites were found
1995 - another 41 nest sites were found
1996 - 70 new nest sites were found
Altogether 514 nest sites were mapped in Annaberg-Buchholz during the years 1993-1996. We know that in 1995/96 alone at least 133 established nest sites were lost - what an irretrievable loss.
Our work is centred on a residential area, the so called "Barbara-Uthmann-Ring", because it is a large housing estate built during GDR times from lots of concrete blocks which offer many opportunities for nesting.
The first results:
Our efforts to save established nest sites in walls very often came to nothing because of resistance from architects and property developers. They did not want any holes in the walls because they claimed that under these circumstances sufficient insulation could not be maintained and the heat loss would be too high. However, there were some companies which supported our efforts. REAL MASSIVBAU, for example, fitted 12 nest box building blocks into new buildings in the residential area "Herzog-Georg-Ring" in 1994 and 1995.
In 1995 we took another step. We found a partner in the Municipal Housing Company which was willing to look for practical solutions with us. We conducted a large-scale test and glued 16 nest boxes to the roofs of 5 municipal buildings. These have survived the winter well. In July 1996, eight nest boxes were checked and we found that seven of them had been occupied by swifts. In one nest box an egg was still found, and in another an adult swift was caught and banded.
We would also like to mention the strong support by local authorities in Annaberg-Buchholz which are responsible for urban development. During a committee meeting we were allowed to give a presentation on the problems the swifts face. The committee members were really interested in our documentation and the list of all mapped nest sites. After a very lively discussion, the committee passed a resolution which states that the catalogue of nest sites is to be put on an equal level with the list of such buildings which are under "protection as historic buildings and monuments". The result is that all applications for constructing a new building or reconstruction of an old building must state whether there are any nest sites for swifts which will be affected. If there is such a danger, the applicant has to be informed and asked for a committment towards the upkeep of the swift's nest sites.
We want to use this opportunity to thank all individuals, companies, institutions, local authorities and politicians who support our program.