Life Inside Chimney Swift Towers
At the Travis Audubon Chaetura Canyon Bird Sanctuary, the wardens use video equipment to keep tabs on the birds roosting and nesting in manmade structures.
|Driftwood Wildlife Association
Paul and Georgean Kyle have dedicated their spare time—and their property—to providing summer homes for chimney swifts. In Chaetura Canyon, just outside of Austin, Texas, the couple has built 16 nesting and roosting towers for the birds, whose populations have dipped by more than half in the United States since the 1960s and by 90 percent in Canada. As settlers cleared forests across North America, the birds switched from roosting in hollow trees to the stone and brick chimneys of houses and factories. But industrial chimneys, too, were torn down, removing critical swift habitat. The Kyles have been instrumental in building towers for the birds, not only in the Texas Hill Country, but around the country.
In 2006 the Kyles and Travis Audubon created the 10-acre Travis Audubon Chaetura Canyon Bird Sanctuary on the couple’s property. Travis Audubon has launched an expansion fund to try and buy more land around the sanctuary.
If you’re interested in building a chimney swift tower, click here for general information about constructing the structures or here for the Kyle’s informative, step-by-step books on the subject.
The Kyles have outfitted the towers on their property with video equipment. Click on the images below to see clips of tower life.
In the fall chimney swifts congregate in large numbers in preparation for their migration to South America. Here, at dusk, they begin to circle around a 22-foot tower that rises through the eaves five feet above the Kyles’ roof. As darkness falls the birds enter their nighttime accommodations. They are not sound sleepers and are restless in the roost where they preen, chatter with their neighbors, and fly from place to place between short naps. At first light, they usually take to the sky.
Once the young chimney swifts are completely feathered and their eyes are open, they will cling to the nest and flap their wings to exercise their pectoral muscles. At this age, their vocalizations become more evident as they respond to the parents coming in to feed them.
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