The Common Swift in Vienna

Where does the common swift breeds and how many of them are there in Vienna? Does the common swift breed exclusively in colonies or are there abundant single breeding pairs?

common swift, observing, mapping

The project overview

Area of Science: Natural Sciences
Location: Vienna, Austria
Used Devices: without PC/Mobile, with PC/Mobile
Equipment of citizen scientists: Survey form and pencil, smartphone/camera
Activities of citizen scientists: observing, photographing, mapping
Suitable for: Youngsters
Project duration: 01.05.2018 - 15.07.2018
Time to join in: 15.05.2018 - 30.06.2018
Expenditure of time: Search for breeding sites (about ~ 30 min. or more), mapping of the breeding site (at least 30 min.), filling in the data in the survey form (about 5 min.)

Project objective

The common swift is a strictly protected bird species which is breeding quite hidden on buildings in densely populated urban areas. This distinctive migrating bird species is home to middle Europe exclusively for the breeding season lasting about 3 months, which is why it is seen as indicative of the awakening nature in many cities including Vienna at the start of spring season. The rest of the year, the common swift spends its time living in the air of the African continent. It’s day-to-day live is taking place exclusively in the air, including reproduction, foraging, sleeping and many other common behaviours. The conservation of their nesting sites plays a central role in protecting this fascinating bird species, because they are returning to the exact same nesting site within their familiar colonies year after year. During breeding season, the common swift is home to the entire urban/municipal area of Vienna, but their distinctive nesting sites are hardly recognizable which is why its breeding site mapping is very time-consuming. Moreover, many details of the Viennese common swift population are still unknown. What is actually the exact size of common swift colonies in Vienna? Does the common swift breed exclusively in colonies or are there abundant single breeding pairs? Where are their predominant nesting sites and how big is the actual population of common swifts in Vienna? To answer all these questions and to conserve their nesting sites, scientists need many observations and verifiable sightings in accordance with strict scientific methods.

How did citizen scientists participate?

School classes could contribute to this project by searching for all nesting sites in Vienna, which can be identified by common swift behaviour in the early morning and evening. Once located on the front of respective buildings, the number of breeding pairs and exact position of their breeding sites (on respective buildings) can be determined and mapped.

What happened to contributions of citizen scientists?

All verified reports of sightings by school classes were included in a digital map, analysed using scientific methods and will ultimately contribute to the conservation of common swift breeding sites. This is why, in addition to the scientific questions the conservation of this strictly protected bird species is the main purpose of this citizen science project.

Prizes and how were the winners determined?

The winners of the contest were determined from all submitted survey forms and were ranked according to the number of contributions and observations. Contributions wereverified through random sampling. False reporting led to disqualification from the contest and the data was excluded from the analyses.

Award winner
1st prize with 1,000 euros: 7B Wiedner Gymnasium / Sir Karl Popper Schule (Vienna)
2nd prize with 750 euros: 6C BRG Billrothstraße (Vienna)
3rd prize with 500 euros: 1 Hf HBLVA Rosensteingasse  (Vienna)

Participating and supporting institutions


DI Ferdinand Schmeller, Municipal Department for Environmental Protection MA 22, City of Vienna

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