Chimney swifts are beneficial birds to the environment because they are voracious eaters of bothersome flying insects including mosquitoes, flies and beetles. They attract attention as they acrobatically swoop down on their prey and eat in flight.
Chimney swifts are migrant birds, returning to our region in April, when they begin looking for nesting sites and then leaving for warmer climates in the fall. Swifts create a public spectacle, drawing crowds to watch them at dusk when they dramatically swirl in a large mass before entering the towers for the night.
This collaborative effort to install towers became necessary because the swift populations have declined significantly in our region as their habitat has been changed over the years, reducing their nesting sites. They roost by hanging vertically on the interior of hollowed trees and chimneys, but these options have been lost as dead trees are removed for suburban development and chimneys are capped for more efficient heating methods. The towers serve as a favorable substitute to encourage the swifts to make our region their home again.
The 12-foot towers have a grooved wooden interior that allows the birds to hang and build their nests. It is wrapped in a four-sided kiosk structure using wood posts and siding, designed for mounting informational signs. The Audubon Society has prepared two signs to display on the towers, one with details about the birds and the other explaining the purpose of the tower. Towers placed in more densely forested areas and not easily accessible to people will not have informational signs. Two sides of the kiosk will contain other information about the park features and events.
The Parks Foundation secured the funding for this project and partnered with the Audubon Society and Allegheny County Parks to construct the towers and oversee their installation. Funding for the $198,000 project was provided by the Peaceable Kingdom Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and matching funds from Allegheny County. Funding has also been set aside for long-term maintenance and repairs.
"The Allegheny County Parks Foundation is proud to have been able to reach out to the foundation community to help make the County parks refuges for these interesting and beneficial birds. This project supports our goal to improve the environment in the County parks for the thousands of residents who visit every day," said Caren Glotfelty, executive director of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation.