Winchester Cathedral - the Start of a Swift Colony

Updated: Jan 12

The installation of Swift boxes on Winchester Cathedral, generously funded by Birds on the Brink, was delayed a bit last year due to Covid restrictions and so the 20 boxes weren’t installed until August 2020.

20 Swift Boxes in Winchester Cathedral tower
20 Swift Boxes in Winchester Cathedral tower

In May this year the call player was turned on and birds were seen investigating the openings, attracted by the calls. In early November, Roger and I went back to inspect the boxes to see if there was any indications they had been used. Success in the first year! One box (no. 20) has a completed nest and from the marks on the bottom of the box it’s clear that young have been fledged from it.

Box 20 – young fledged in 2021
Box 20 – young fledged in 2021

In the adjacent Box, no. 19, there is the start of a nest, probably built by younger, immature birds which will hopefully survive the winter and return to nest here next year.

Box 19 with the start of a nest
Box 19 with the start of a nest

And in the adjacent Boxes 7 and 8 some feathers have been taken inside, though most of these had already been eaten by moths at the time of the inspection on 5 November, leaving just the white shafts visible. And in fact that is also the case in box 20, where although at first glance it looks as if the nest is constructed of bits of dried grass, this is actually mainly the shafts of the feathers left after the moth larvae had eaten all the fluffy palatable parts.

Box 8 with just the feather shafts left after the feathery parts had been eaten by moths
Box 8 with just the feather shafts left after the feathery parts had been eaten by moth larvae

We did see just one adult Tineola bisselliella (also known as the common clothes moth) in Box no. 20, but there were quite a lot of larval/pupal cases from what appears to be at least two different species.


Tineid cases in Boxes 19 and 20.
Tineid moth cases in Boxes 19 and 20

And in Box no. 1 a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly had found an excellent spot to hibernate for the winter. Isn’t nature wonderful!


Small Tortoiseshell in Box no. 1.
Small Tortoiseshell in Box no. 1.

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