Chimney swifts get a new home

New Jersey Audubon’s Wattles Stewardship Center is poised to welcome Chimney Swifts back to Warren County this spring with a new home. Since 2010 (when NJA acquired the property), we have witnessed Chimney Swifts returning annually to nest in the chimney of the roughly 190 year-old Wattles Stewardship Center. While realizing that the old chimneys need to be capped and cared for, we didn’t want to evict the Chimney Swifts without first ensuring they had a new chimney to go to. With support from the New Jersey Conserve Wildlife Foundation, material donations from the James Hardie Corporation and technical guidance from Scott Burnet and Peter Saegner of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, we set out to build a tower on sight for the Chimney Swifts. During the last few months of 2015 a foundation was set and the tower constructed.

IMG_3433IMG_3794Capping our chimneys is needed to ensure the long-term maintenance of the building, including preventing water and animal intrusions. It is our expectation, that when the birds return in the spring to their traditional nesting site they will find and adopt the new tower. Towers, such as the one at the Wattles Stewardship Center, have been proven successful in providing alternative nesting habitat. To facilitate a smooth transition, our chimneys will remain uncapped during the 2016 nesting period.

Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagic) are among several species of birds that breed in highly urbanized areas and utilize man-made structures for nesting habitat. Specifically, Chimney Swifts nest primarily in chimneys and other artificial sites with vertical surfaces and low light (including air vents, old wells, abandoned cisterns, outhouses, boathouses, garages, silos, barns, lighthouses, and firewood sheds). Changes and modifications to building structures, such as new chimneys with a more narrow flue and the capping of older chimneys, has reduced nesting sites thereby threatening the success of this species. Capping on older buildings may be done for a variety of reasons including: containing sparks and embers, blocking downdrafts, reducing moisture, preventing debris build-up, and keeping wildlife from entering the chimney and potentially becoming trapped.

We will be installing a display board at the site of the tower, with details about Chimney Swifts and Chimney Swift towers. Thanks to Judith Bland for assisting in creating signage. Next time you are out near Washington or Hackettstown, stop by and check out the new tower; come in the spring and watch the birds circle above the entrance as they check it out!