Swifts: the latest victims of gentrification in Hackney

A swift mid-flight.

A swift mid-flight. - Credit: Archant

Swifts have been branded the latest victim of gentrification in Hackney.

Hamish Burnett

Hamish Burnett - Credit: Archant

While some bemoan rising house prices and a changing demographic, one Hackney resident says swifts are the latest victim of gentrification in the borough.

Bird lover Hamish Burnett has blamed the renovation of buildings to meet property demands in the area for the decline of the sooty brown fork-tailed bird – and has organised a conference on what can be done to protect the species, which has diminished by 40 per cent in the past 20 years in the UK.

Mr Burnett, 27, of Cadogan Terrace, Hackney Wick, said: “In Hackney swifts may be becoming a victim of gentrification where house price rises have led to much increased renovation of houses and subsequently a lack of nooks and crannies for swifts to nest in.


“This is compounded by absentee landlords, with no knowledge of swifts nesting in their properties, and the fast turnover of tenants unable to help them by installing boxes or even noticing their presence.

“Swifts must be clinging on to a few nest sites in the area, but their future is far from secure.”

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Swifts, which sleep as they fly, spend their winters in Africa and just three months each summer in the UK to breed in eaves and gables.

But modern and renovated buildings exclude them, and unless something is done environmental experts warn that swifts could vanish from the UK.

Last summer Mr Burnett contacted several developers in Hackney to see if they would work with him to install swift boxes, but all of them refused.

He said: “Most have at least replied, but none have elaborated on why they cannot install nest boxes, to do so is pretty simple.

“I also made contact with Hackney Council to see if they could persuade more developers of flats to include swift nest boxes.

“They pointed out that swifts were in their biodiversity action plan, but I don’t know of any flats in Hackney which have included swift boxes.”

Edward Mayer from Swift Conservation will discuss what residents can do to help at the London Wildlife Trust East Reservoir community garden in Newnton Close, Stoke Newington, on Saturday, June 21, at 5pm.