THE Ludlow swift group is busy helping a much loved but increasingly threatened summer visitor.

This is the height of the Swift season when the birds are busy feeding young in their nests hidden in nooks and crannies high up in our buildings.

These birds – like swallows, house martins and many other summer visitors - fly thousands of miles from Africa to breed here each summer as our long daylight hours are an advantage for finding the insects that they feed on.

However, both the dramatic decline of insects and a catastrophic loss of cavities to nest in have led to more than a 50 per cent decline in their number over the last 20 years.

Swift Groups across the country are working hard to raise awareness about these birds as there is much that help them.

The Swifts are often confused with House Martins who build the mud nest cups seen on the outside of buildings and Swallows whose nests are inside barns but Swifts need small gaps in buildings to build their nest out of sight.

Most common swifts do not breed until their fourth year but young birds make the migration journey and start looking for a safe, dark hole where they will be able to raise a brood when they are mature.

Swifts catch all their food in the air and also drink and bathe on the wing.

They are the most aerial of birds, only landing when they go into their nests sites which they use year after year.

Nests are made in crevices in walls, under roof eaves or inside pantiles and often lost by reroofing or renovation work to houses.

So much reroofing is done when people are unaware they have swifts and then the nest sites are lost and the birds become homeless.

Work that is done in the summer when the birds are breeding is a real problem – it is illegal to interfere with the nests of breeding birds but so often scaffolding is erected and work undertaken that means birds are trapped in nest sites or parents cannot get into nests to feed young.

Here are some ways to help Swifts -

• Ensure nesting holes are kept open when carrying out roof renovations or insulation

• Check carefully for any nesting birds before starting any work.

• Put up a swift box. Make sure it’s at least five metres high with a clear flight path.

• Stop using garden chemicals to support a healthy insect population

• Keep records of swifts entering holes in buildings and send these to Shropshire Swift Group