Perhaps you’ve seen them, the small birds with slender bodies. Their wings flap almost constantly, long, narrow, and curved. Their short, wide bills capture all sorts of insects, namely mosquitoes.
They are chimney swifts, and according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, their nesting sites are few and far between.
Once, chimney swifts constructed their half-saucers of loosely woven twigs in the hollowed logs of old-growth forests. As European settlement grew in the U.S., they moved to brick chimneys. Now that those are deteriorating and homeowners are capping the tops of new chimneys, the birds have few options.
Back in 2012, the Evansville Audubon Society recognized the potential to help the bird that suffered a 65-percent population decline over the past 45 years. The community saw a mode of cutting down on mosquitoes, which had been spreading West Nile Virus that year.
Brian Taylor, president of the Audubon Society at the time, worked with fellow members to compose and submit a Collaborative Grant application to the National Audubon Society. They asked for and received funds to build chimney swift towers throughout the area.
With his woodworking experience, Audubon Society member Jim Lodato got tower plans from the Chimney Swift Conservation Association and went to work.
The first 14-foot tower, funded by Larry Raben, went up at the N. Fares Avenue location of Raben Tire and Auto Service.
The second, completed in 2013 and dedicated to Glenn and Nellie Grant and Don Goodaker, stands at the demonstration garden of the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association near the Evansville State Hospital grounds.
Just this May, Brad Uebelhor and his technology education students at Boonville Middle School used the Collaborative Grant funds to build a third tower.
“We chipped away at it a little bit at a time,” says Uebelhor, “and once it was built, the high school class came over and erected it.”
Thanks to Uebelhor and his middle school class, along with Mike Wilson and his Boonville High School industrial technology students, Taylor’s work finally paid off.
“It feels good, just because it’s been so long coming,” says Taylor. “We just had the right mix of people who wanted to do it.”
The Audubon Society plans to continue the project with one or two tower constructions each year, with the next one possibly coming to the University of Southern Indiana.
“Right now, I’m just trying to find that person who wants to continue on with it,” says Taylor. “The funding is there. We just need somebody to do it, somebody that really likes to do it, because it does take a lot of time to get these built.”
For more information about local chimney swift towers, visit evvaudubon.org/chimneyswift.html.