AN OTLEY bird-lover is calling for new homes to be made 'swift-friendly'.

Local residents living in older, stone-built properties will be welcoming back the birds - who winter in Africa - in early May.

Swifts fly thousands of miles each year to return to their nesting sites but their numbers in the UK are in sharp decline.

The birds usually nest in buildings, using gaps under roof tiles and eaves - but such spots are disappearing as older homes are repaired, renovated or demolished.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is backing a range of measures to tackle the problem, including the inclusion of a single 'nest brick' under the eaves of each new house.

Albion Street resident Shannon Coles believes that should be required for all future residential development in Otley.

She said: "A 'swift brick', included under the eaves in any new-build houses, would provide suitable nesting sites for swifts long into the future and ensure that these fascinating birds continue to be seen and heard in our summer evenings.

"It would be a small change for new developments, with a big impact on our swift population."

One of Labour's three Otley and Yeadon ward candidates for May's Leeds City Council elections, Elliot Nathan, is backing the call.

He said: "Like many people I love the sound of gangs of swifts chasing and screaming through the air in the evenings, but I’m aware that this may be a sound that my grandchildren may never hear unless we act now.

"If elected I will work with local conservation groups and our MP, Alex Sobel - who has been nominated for a Green Heart Heroes award for his work on environmental issues.

"Wildlife diversity and environmental sensitivity are important issues for Otley people and we need to ensure that developers understand they can make small but significant contributions like this to help protect wildlife."

The Common Swift, which currently has an Amber UK conservation status, is renowned for its speed and manoeuvrability in flight.

The bird, except when nesting, spends its life in the air where it drinks, feeds and often mates and sleeps on the wing.

It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail while its diet consists of flying insects and airborne spiders.

For more details about how to help swifts visit or .