Fake Chimneys For Swifts

Hundreds of chimney swifts circle around a chimney where they will spend the night in Birmingham, Alabama. The birds are faced with the loss of chimneys in the eastern United States, so people from New England to Texas are building fake chimneys to provide nesting spots and migration motels.

Adding nest boxes to the landscape has helped cheerful little bluebirds survive and thrive.

Conservationists hope that manmade houses for bats will do the same for these nocturnal insect-eaters.

Now add fake chimneys for chimney swifts to the list.

Scientists suspect that the population of chimney swifts has plunged by 70 percent since the 1960s.

That’s partly because the birds use chimneys as nesting spots — and old buildings with chimneys are being lost; most new buildings aren’t being constructed with chimneys, and those new buildings that do contain chimneys usually are built with materials that don’t provide perching options and also screen out birds and other animals.

Chimney swifts’ feet are designed to grasp rough vertical surfaces only, and they need vertical hollows for nesting.

So some U.S. conservationists are erecting chimney-like structures for the birds, which spread through the eastern half of the country during their warm weather migration.

Lack of nesting/resting spaces isn’t the only problem facing chimney swifts. Their food source, insects, also is declining; and they may be facing habitat loss in South America, where they spend the winter.

It doesn’t help, either, that around 100 of them were severely injured when a migrating flock crashed into the NASCAR Hall of Fame building in Charlotte. Another 200 birds were stunned or injured less severely.

The Hall of Fame building features plenty of glass, the reflections of which can cause birds to become disoriented.

North Carolina biologists said such collisions are more likely to happen during migrations.

These little birds need our help — or at least for us not to do them harm.

So if you see a “chimney to nowhere” sprouting up in your community, don’t be concerned that a crazy neighbor might be moving in.

There’s nothing crazy about trying to save swifts, even with fake chimneys.

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