Sunday, August 23, 2015

Urban Swifts

Chimney swifts - Richard Crossley CC
We will be posting a lot about chimney swifts over the next year but I felt this issue couldn't wait for the calendar to catch up. 

I am reprinting Jim Fossard's letter to the editor in today's News-Leader as an introduction to the problems that swifts face as we "clean up" downtown Springfield as well as historic structures in all our cities.
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I have been impressed by the development in downtown Springfield, with the “Sky 11” and “The U” loft projects, but one unfortunate, but easily fixable, casualty of this development was the loss of a really great chimney swift tower in the form of a ventilation chimney on the southeast corner of McDaniel Building, now “The U” lofts.

Hundreds of chimney swifts would congregate every evening to roost in that chimney, much to the delight of downtown residents and customers, who would marvel at their acrobatics just as the sun set. Chimney swifts migrate to North America from the Upper Amazon basin, Bolivia and Peru in the spring. Unlike most birds, chimney swifts are unable to perch or stand upright and must have chimneys or similar structures in which to roost and raise their families. As summer draws to a close and the swifts have finished raising their young, these fascinating aerial acrobats begin to congregate in communal roosts prior to their migration in the fall. Some roosts may consist of an extended family group of a half a dozen birds or so, but the larger sites can host hundreds or even thousands of swifts.

Looking around downtown Springfield, there are several capped chimneys that would make excellent habitat for chimney swifts, which are unfortunately in a steep decline in North America because of the lack of chimneys in buildings and homes. It would be wonderful if those chimneys could be uncapped, at least for the warm months of the year. Residents and visitors to the area would really get quite a show during this time of the year and it would be a draw for businesses with visitors who enjoy this aerial display. If you have never seen such a display, you are missing one of the wonders of nature.

Jim Fossard is a member of Greater Ozarks Audubon Society with a special passion for swifts.  More on these projects later.

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