Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy

Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy

Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy


For The Birds: A Swift Tale

A Swift Tale told by Mercy Sisters in Westport and Tuam

Kathleen Friel, who lives in Westport, has got interested in the tale of the Swift. The reason for this may be viewed by clicking on the link and from there to a 9 minute TV clip:

The Sisters in Westport have pursued the (Mercy International Reflection Process) MIRP and realise the most effective way of doing this is to link with other groups in the town, on such environmental issues. Interestingly, while the “hot spot” for swifts in Mayo is the old convent in Westport; in Galway, it is Saint Brigid’s, the old psychiatric hospital in Ballinasloe: the link being that they were built in the same style.

This beautiful image was taken by Michaél Casey

The inspiration for this story came from Agnes Curley rsm, living in Tuam. She writes…

On 16th of June I heard that there was a meeting in Tuam on the endangered bird the Swift. I knew it was a must. My parents instilled into me a great love and respect for all God’s creatures; little did I know that in later years that awareness would play such a big part in my prayer  life, contemplation, music and song …

The meeting in the library was given by Lynda Huxley who lectures in G.M.I.T(Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology), Castlebar and who is the main organiser behind the Swift conservation project in Ireland. Lynda invited us to try and look out for Swift sightings and locate some nests. Helen Kelly and I have gone out together almost every evening since, locating 3 different sites and 7 nests, even counting 22 birds one evening. We report to Lynda, who is excited and grateful for our commitment to the project. Here’s why…

Helen Kelly and Agnes Curley observing Swifts

The swift is on the amber list of birds of conservation concern in Ireland because its population has declined by 46% in the last 15 years. They come to Ireland annually to breed, arriving in late April and leaving in late August. Once they have found a place to nest, they will return there every year for the rest of their lives. Work is being undertaken to help save the swift in Ireland by erecting nest boxes, surveying for traditional sites and rescuing injured birds.

Building in Tuam where Swifts nest

Swifts do not cause any public nuisance as they do not leave any droppings under the nests. They do us a good service by consuming millions of flying insects, with which they feed their young. Their activity is affected by weather conditions. On a wet day they spend most of the day at the nest site. On a wet evening they go into the nest site about 8 pm and stay there all night.

Close-up view of location of one nest

Fine, breezy weather is best, when there are lots of insects to feed on. Most of my sightings have been between 9.00 and 10.30pm. As we walk gently on Earth and become more aware of the wonder of God’s Creation, I hope that we will consider sponsoring at least one box which contains 3 nests. Nests are now only found in very old buildings. Many nests have been destroyed by old buildings being “pointed” and restructured. Preservation orders on buildings are necessary for such good reasons. I am blessed to belong to a congregation who are so conscious of the necessity to care deeply for Earth and all of Creation, blessed too to meet people like Linda Huxley who is deeply grateful for our “Mercy” interest.

Screen shot of Swifts nesting in the GMIT, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Image by R. Chaves of a Swift in the hand

More information can be found on

Nests can be viewed from a site in Castlebar on

My parting words “Mercy is alive and well in Tuam and in the West.”

Agnes Curley rsm
Western Province

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