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Rich & Marion Miller:

Constructing Chimney Swift Towers

At the March 9, 2016 Peoria Audubon Meeting, Rich and Marion Miller, from the Kane County Audubon Society, were with us to talk about all the benefits and conservation of Chimney Swifts.  Historically, Chimney Swifts, sometimes known as a "flying cigar," nested in large hollow trees.  With a reduction of forests and loss of habitat, they adapted to using masonry chimneys for their nesting and roosting sites. The swifts would use the chimneys for nesting in summer and by winter, they would have migrated to South America. 

                             Chimney Swift - a.k.a "Flying Cigar"    Photo from Wikipedia

With modern high-efficiency furnaces being used, there are fewer and fewer masonry chimneys that could serve as nesting sites.  Being aware of this trend, Rich and Marion decided to take action.  They contacted several Chimney Swift enthusiast groups and started making plans to construct Chimney Swift towers around several sites in Kane County Illinois.  They also organized members of their Audubon chapter to monitor and manage the sites. 

Rich and Marion provided a wealth of information on their project that resulted in constructing 4 Chimney Swift towers in Kane County Illinois.  Each free-standing tower is 12-feet tall and has a double-wall construction for keeping the interior cool.     

Interesting facts about Chimney Swifts: 

  • Chimney Swifts do not perch.  Instead, they use their long claws to cling to the walls of chimneys and other vertical surfaces. 

  • Except for roosting at night or when they are on the nest, they fly continuously.  They catch and eat insects  while on the wing. 

  • Consumes up to 1000 mosquitoes and other flying insects daily (about 1/3 of their weight). 

  • They even bathe in flight by flying over water, "smacking" the water with their chest, and shaking the water off their feathers.  

  • Builds a tiny cup-shaped nest from twigs (gathered while flying) that are glued together and fastened using their own saliva.   

Rich Miller Showing Chimney Swift Tower

Rich and Marion suggested the following sites for more information on how to design and construct swift towers. 

Learn More:

Rich & Marion Miller graciously said that they could be contacted for more information on constructing swift towers. 

Images and data used by permission of Rich & Marion Miller; All Rights Reserved

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