Towers for Chimney Swift Nesting by Amanda Sebrosky, Founder, Northeast Ohio Chimney Swift Conservation Society
Chimney swifts are unique birds. They cannot stand or perch but are adapted to grasping the inside of old hollow trees and masonry chimneys and they catch all their food while in flight. They can eat a third of their body weight in mosquito-sized insects daily, which makes them a great friend to humans.
Georgean and Paul Kyle, wildlife rehabilitation specialists living in Texas, have researched chimney swifts for nearly 30 years and have developed a relatively inexpensive tower that is accepted by chimney swifts for nesting and roosting. The towers are 8 to 12 feet tall, constructed with readily available materials and require minimal carpentry expertise and maintenance. Detailed instructions can be found in the book 'Chimney Swift Towers: New Habitat for America's Mysterious Birds' by Paul Kyle.
My work to help chimney swifts started after briefly caring for chimney swift orphans are Lake Erie Nature & Science Center in Bay Village, Ohio. Tim Jasinski, LENSC Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist, mentioned that their numbers were dwindling in part due to habitat loss and I resolved to help.
Through a fundraiser on the Facebook group, Northeast Ohio Chimney Swift Conservation, I was able to connect with other concerned people and raise enough money for one tower. I am also writing grants and expect that this will be a continuing effort.
I naively thought that ‘giving away’ towers would be easy but that hasn’t necessarily proven to be the case. Depending upon the entity being approached, there can be multiple layers of approval needed and ‘buy-ins'. Schools with a multidisciplinary approach need all the individuals from the multiple disciplines to ‘buy-in’ to this project. Parks may not see the value of the project or not want the further work of maintenance.
It may take repeated tries before people accept the project so it is important to be ready with plans for how funds will be obtained, how the project will proceed as well as documented reasons why this project is important. Documented reasons include how it will benefit the citizens of a town or park users as well as how it will benefit the bird population. Examples of how others have implemented their projects and the level of success allow the people to visualize the project as well as convince them that it is ‘doable’. Additionally, it helps to have prepared answers to questions - a list that will surely grow with time.
Ultimately, the most important part is education of people as to the importance of birds as a bellwether to environmental health and what that means to them and their children. People need to understand how the environmental crisis will directly affect them such as through higher food costs, the silent but deadly effects of pesticide use and the loss of birdsong in spring. Finally, they need to be shown what they can do to mitigate all these things such as by planting native flowers, curtailing use of pesticides and writing congresspeople to demand a livable world.
A tower can be a way to help show people how they are tied to what is happening around them just as strongly as are the birds.
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Passionate About Environmental Stewardship by Dr. Anne Farley Schoeffler, Seton Catholic School
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