A WILDLIFE charity is raising funds for new nest boxes to help boost the declining numbers of swifts in Poole town centre.

Birds of Poole Harbour has partnered up with PR agency Saltwater Stone for the project, which will see up to ten purpose-built nest boxes in the old town area of Poole.

The charity is currently raising £1,700 towards the cost of the boxes, which will contain equipment that plays swift calls to attract the birds to breed in the town.

According to Birds of Poole Harbour, the numbers of swifts visiting the country each year has decreased by more than 50 per cent since 1995. Now, the long-distant migrants have become a rarity in Poole, partly due to the reduction in suitable nesting sites.

“Swifts have traditionally made use of holes in man-made structures, nesting under roof tiles, in eaves, lofts, barns and spires. But the renovation of old buildings and the drive to make homes more energy-efficient has meant many houses have been made impermeable for these visitors,” the charity said.

Saltwater Stone, based near Poole Quay, will be providing half of the funding for the Swift City project. The firm’s founder and managing director, Georgina Bartlett, said: “I have lived and worked in Poole for 20 years but never seen a swift here. We hope that by providing nest boxes we will encourage a colony of these remarkable birds to re-establish and thrive in the heart of our town for many future generations to enjoy.”

Birds of Poole Harbour is still seeking additional funding for the project and donations can be made by visiting the charity’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/campaign/swiftcitypoole

Birds of Poole Harbour founder Paul Morton said: “Swifts are incredibly charismatic and are true signs of summer. One of the major problems facing these birds is a lack of nesting sites – our modern buildings simply don’t have the nooks, crannies and cavities that swifts need to build their nests in.

“We hope that with this project we can safeguard their future here in Old Town Poole, where it’s likely they have been for many hundreds of years.”

No other bird species spends as much of its life in the air as the swift, which feeds, mates and even sleeps in flight. The majority of the birds’ time is spent in Africa but each year they navigate thousands of miles to northern breeding grounds to nest and raise chicks before returning home in August.