Swifts of the DAB

Swifts are categorised as ‘endangered’ in the UK, with numbers having declined by over 50% between 1995 and 2016. Swifts nest high up in nooks and crannies of buildings and are thus vulnerable to the destruction of nests when buildings are removed or altered. The creation of artificial nesting sites is therefore an important way of supporting swift colonies.

As one of the tallest buildings in Cambridge, the David Attenborough Building is well placed to host breeding swift colonies. The creation of nesting habitats for swifts was therefore one of the key objectives in plans to make the building hospitable for wildlife. CCI worked with Dick Newell, founder of Action for Swifts, who designed and mounted 12 first nestboxes to fit behind the vertical metal bars on the sides of the East Tower in 2017.

In 2021, we observed fledglings for the first time and many people tuned in to watch our live swift box webcams over the summer. In 2022, we added 12 new nest boxes to the building.

Share your sightings with us

  1. Press the play button on each video to start streaming each live feed. 
  2. If you spot a swift, tweet #DABSwifts @CCI_Cambridge





“There will come a time when all swifts in the UK will be in nestboxes, as all of their natural sites will have been destroyed, blocked, or otherwise made unavailable. It is therefore important that thousands of nestboxes are installed in existing and new buildings to replace those that are lost. It is thus most pleasing that swifts have shown by example the way forward in the centre of gravity of conservation in the UK, the David Attenborough Building.” Dick Newell.

Biophilic and living design

Our 2020 Earth Optimism Festival featured a panel discussion and Q&A session on how you can make buildings, including homes and offices, better for wildlife and the environment. The panel includes John Day, who is the RSPB’s Urban Adviser and swift expert. You can watch the session back here.

Notable sites for biodiversity in Cambridge

The University of Cambridge owns land which supports a variety of habitats, from lowland meadows to approximately 65 hectares of woodland.

The role of art in conservation

Artists inspire new ways of looking at, listening to, and engaging with science, and have an extraordinary capacity to create encounters with the natural world that are memorable. From musicians to poets, painters to dancers, collaborations between artists and scientists have the ability to transform the way we portray and undertake conservation.