The Isanti County Parks Department along with the Friends of Anderson Park worked cooperatively with Audubon Minnesota and the Wild Rivers Audubon Chapter to construct a Chimney Swift Tower at Anderson Park. The project was made possible by the Audubon Minnesota Chimney Swift Conservation grant program, initiated to help build specially designed nesting/roosting towers for chimney swifts and to educate the public about what they can do help this species whose populations are declining rapidly.
Chimney Swifts historically nested and roosted in hollow trees. As American pioneers moved westward, they cleared forests and removed the swift’s habitat. The birds previously known as American Swifts soon adapted to utilize the masonry chimneys erected by those same pioneers. Changes in chimney construction have greatly reduced nesting and roosting sites resulting in a 50 percent decline of Chimney Swifts over the last 40 years.
Chimney Swifts are small, agile, fast-flying birds that are readily identified by their characteristic “flying cigar” profile. They are among the fastest fliers of the bird world, are unable to perch on a branch or wire, and therefore spend all day in the air coming to rest only at night. They gather twigs for their nest in flight, breaking them off as they fly by! Perhaps most important though, is that they eat one-third of their own weight in mosquitoes, gnats, and flies every day.
According to Joe Sausen, a member of the Wild Rivers Audubon Chapter, Swifts are amazingly interactive when they fly. He thinks of them as a “squadron” playing follow-the-leader. Late July and early August are when the Chimney Swift nestlings’ are learning to fly within the chimneys and towers in Minnesota. Look for them in the sky at dusk and dawn near chimneys or specially constructed towers like the one at Anderson Park. To learn more about swifts see www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chimney_Swift/id or http://mn.audubon.org/ and click on the “Birds, Science and Education” section.