With funding from the National Biodiversity Action Plan, Cork County Council has embarked on a project, supporting BirdWatch Ireland’s West Cork Branch, in their efforts to create new nesting opportunities for two of our most vulnerable bird species, the Swift and the Barn Owl.

One of our most iconic summer visitors, the Swifts arrive after their cousins, the Swallows in May, and depart again in August.  Unlike Swallows, they’re never seen resting on wires, instead spending virtually all their life airborne, nesting in urban rooftops, using holes in the fascia and soffits to access roof space.  As buildings are renovated, these sites can be lost, and sadly Swift numbers have declined in Ireland by a shocking 40% over the last 10 years.  Reasons for this include the loss of suitable nest sites.

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley commended ongoing conservation work, saying:

A BirdWatch survey found Swifts still occur in most areas, but are reliant on a very small number of buildings in our towns and villages. Working with community groups like Tidy Towns, the Birdwatch Ireland Branch in West Cork, started a Swift Conservation Project in 2019 to establish baseline populations in West Cork towns and to create additional breeding spaces. Happily, our Barn Owl populations in the County have been making a comeback, but some of their old nesting sites are no longer suitable and some pose a danger to survival of young birds. This project aims to provide safe nest boxes for these two species and Cork County Council is delighted to be able to support this positive step in promoting and supporting our wildlife and biodiversity.

Funding secured by Cork County Council from the National Biodiversity Action Plan to support these conservation efforts has helped purchase and erect Swift nest boxes on suitable buildings in the towns of Bandon, Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Skibbereen and Ballydehob; and similar provisions for Barn Owls in suitable locations across the entire county in collaboration with land/property owners where suitable sites have been identified.

Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey welcomed the initiative saying:

With this collaborative project, Swift Nest boxes will be monitored by BirdWatch Ireland, with support from Tidy Towns and other groups within each of the towns involved over the coming years.  The success of the Barn Owl boxes will also be closely monitored by researchers with help from volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland.  These simple and relatively inexpensive measures, supported by Cork County Council, will help improve the odds for these remarkable birds in County Cork.

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