Black Swift rests at Palais des Nations peaceful haven

Sun, 29/09/13

 This story was written by the United Nations Information Service, Geneva.

Builders engaged in the renovations of the Palais des Nations, home to the United Nations Office at Geneva, were surprised to discover dozens of nests belonging to a rare and protected species of bird, the Black Swift (Apus apus). The huge renovation project is aimed at making the Palais des Nations more eco-friendly, and the replacement of 1,700 windows was already several months in last Spring when workers found the nests while dismantling awning panels.

The Black Swift is a close relative of the SwaBlackSwiftllow but looks different due to its short tail and scythe-shaped wings. It has the unique characteristic of spending most of its life in flight, landing only to mate. The Swiss authorities have identified the Black Swift as one of fifty birds in need of protection, whose nesting sites have to be preserved. Therefore the owner of any building housing a nest is required to move them out of harm’s way by Swiss Federal Law, which contains strict obligations, such as demands that all building work be suspended until the nesting sites have been made safe.

EggsThanks to the collaboration between the Palais des Nations, an ornithological re-adaptation centre, the architects and different firms involved in the works, the problem was rapidly and efficiently overcome. The careful coordination and meticulous approach taken reduced the setback to no more than a week, and renovation works were promptly resumed.

The workers were able to continue the restorations while the compensatory measures were implemented, simply avoiding working near the windows where the nests had been discovered. The young Swifts then naturally took flight, or in the case of twenty of them, were placed in the capable hands of a local re-adaptation centre for artificial rearing.

Plans are already in placeBirdHouse to provide adapted settling spots for the Black Swifts when they return to the Palais des Nations next spring, installing 50 wooden birdhouses in the locations where the nests were found. So far, a dozen birdhouses are already in place to welcome the returning Swifts. The United Nations Office at Geneva is delighted that the Palais des Nations will continue to be a refuge to the birds, and that its renovation will have no negative repercussions on the local wildlife.