Moving to Italy, Spain or the Midi?

Building a new house or converting an old one? Here's how to prevent Swifts being banished from your home!

Roman Tiles
Photo © Oriana Ferrandino

Don't do this! Swifts nested in this roof in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, for 400 years, but no longer now it has been retiled and the tile ends blocked with cement. Using cement like this, as well as (often illegally) destroying Swift colonies, may impede natural ventilation and promote damp and rot problems.


The builders of the Mediterranean lands have used Roman tiles for over 2000 years. Easy to make and fit, they keep the house cool and dry, and look superb.

Fitted in the original way they make great homes for Swifts, but a disaster is unfolding as builders now block off the tiles with cement, stopping the Swifts access.

It's unnecessary, unsightly, and may cause ventilation and damp problems. It is also illegal if Swifts are nesting in the roof. Make sure your builder leaves the tile ends unblocked so the Swifts can get in to nest.

You will be well rewarded!

On the left is a very interesting roof that we were shown in Grottammare, in the Marche, Italy.

It has two sets of apertures, for Swifts and for Kestrels or Jackdaws, all attractive, entertaining and charismatic birds.

The Swift holes, which are used every summer, are set in the upper right roof edge, just below the roof balcony fencing. The Kestrel or Jackdaw nests are accessible through the hooded tiles on the lower roof to the left.

Adaptations like this are easy and cheap to make when building, renovating or re-roofing. We can supply further information and guidance, and in many cases local help and advice too. Please ask us!  For contacts - see below!

Swift Tower at Cavriago
Photo © Mauro Ferri

The first Swift Tower of the Third Millennium! Italy still has many old Swift Towers, but new ones like this are rare.

These structures were originally built to encourage Swifts to breed so their young could be taken and used as food, in much the same way as dovecotes were once used.

These days they are managed to maintain and enhance the populations of Swifts in Italy.

This one, based on an ancient local structure, was built in 2005 in Cavriago, Reggio Emilia, for the owner, Signor Predieri.

The Swift nest holes in the frieze below the cornice were designed by Mauro Ferri.

Ascoli Picieno
Photo © Oriana Ferrandino

Swifts flying round an old tower in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. They breed in spaces between the bricks, where cement has fallen out giving access to holes just large enough for them to nest in. When re-pointing take care not to block up Swift nests. A check with a boroscope will show whether there are nests inside, and you can then leave sufficient space for the Swifts to enter.

Ascoli Swifts Feeding Video Click here to see Ascoli's Swifts on video!

The visible holes in the brickwork, "bocche pontaie", are there to ease scaffold erection. They are often used by feral pigeons as nest sites, and so may be obstructed or filled in during renovation. But they can be converted for Swifts to breed in by fitting the Swift Wedge Bricks shown below!

Swift Wedge Brick
Wedge Brick in situ  

 

 

 



Photo © Mauro Ferri

Above: Left - the Wedge Brick; Right - the Wedge Brick in use. This Swift Wedge Brick was designed in 2003 by A Imperiale and M Ferri to exclude feral pigeons from the old scaffold holes in the Torre dei Modenesi in Nonantola, Modena, Italy (pictured below), while providing access for Swifts, bats and small insectivorous passerines.

Need more advice and help?

e-mail link   Italy - contact Mauro Ferri

  Catalunya - contact Enric Fuste

e-mail link   Spain (Valencia) - contact Jorge Sanz

e-mail link Spain (Andalucia & Madrid) - contact Miguel Carrero Gálvez

More Information! For more information - contact Swift Conservation

Helping Swifts in Europe Next - Helping Swifts in Europe

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Photo © Mauro Ferri