Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chimney Swifts are back!

Chimney Swift CC jim_mcculloch
While enjoying one of our favorite outdoor restaurants Amy noticed two birds flying high in circles.  She gets the award for seeing the first Chimney Swifts of the year!  I have always enjoyed watching Chimney Swifts twitter and flick around the sky over our city and anxiously awaited their return.  They are always entertaining on a warm spring evening.

Chimney Swifts don't perch like other birds rather they cling to a vertical wall.  In fact it is rare to see them sitting still.  They only land to nest or roost at night, the rest of the time they are busy sailing through the air catching bugs.  They even bath on the wing! Chimney Swifts are important because they reveal a slightly different side of the citied wilderness equation.

Human presence in a once wild land changes things.  From a conservationist point of view the changes are, more often than not, negative.  The Chimney Swift is a noted exception.  As cities grew and more chimney's were built Chimney Swifts adapted to use the newly available habitat and their population increased from pre-settlement times.  As we began to do away with chimney's or started capping or narrowing them we have negatively impacted their population by limiting or eliminating their nesting sites.

Currently their population is in decline. Yet there are efforts underway to reverse that decline by building Chimney Swift towers.  These towers are about 12 feet high and mimic a chimney.  One pair of Swifts can nest in each tower and raise as many as 5 babies each summer.  The opening images of the video in the post on the An Urban Nature Oasis is that of a Chimney Swift tower located outside the Center.  The more towers that are built the more swifts we get and the more bugs they eat.  Certainly sounds good to me!

This points us to an important lesson.  Our impact on the wild doesn't have to be negative.  It can be positive. We can build cities that allow for the wild to share our habitat

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