28 July 2013

Helping Lincoln's Chimney Swifts

In considering the built environment of the city, there is an elegant resident little known to most residents. These feathered bugeaters course the day skies, being a neighbor and benefit to the people.

Chimney swifts dwell among us, and have for the generations that built a cityscape that has continuous change of building removal and rebuilding due to community improvement and revitalization. Many square blocks in Lincoln are now being changed by this process. About 80 square blocks are part of the rapidly changing north downtown area in Omaha.

Currently in Lincoln, this process is having a dramatic impact on swifts. My surveys of the Joint Antelope Authority project in east downtown indicate chimneys used by swifts in the project area. Several buildings scheduled to be removed have chimneys used these June weeks by swifts. Other homes, some likely suitable for swifts, have already been recently removed.

This dramatic loss if bird habitat needs to be mitigated. The situation has been a point of discussion with Lincoln and Omaha city officials, university staff, and the press.

As a result of several communications with the mayor's office in Lincoln, there is agreement on providing some towers. The type of structure and locations have not been decided. The mayor's office has also express interest in providing community fund monies to build towers if they are installed and maintained by the public. The same material has been sent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the general manager of the Lower Platte South NRD. No response has been received from either of these other [JAVA] project sponsors.

Providing swift towers and perhaps even creating a group of towers in a close area — a bugeater park — can be a grand community project. Help is needed to build towers and put them in place. The means for minor maintenance needs to be considered for the future. Perhaps Wachiska members would like to be involved in this exciting endeavor?

Efforts will be needed to convince planners and builders that chimneys should be included with new construction to ensure ongoing swift habitat. This facet could be especially useful when the three-block square locale at the East Downtown Community Park is built in the coming months. Proposed buildings on the west side include facilities which could include a bugeater home, especially useful at removing insect pests at a place where people gather to enjoy the scene.

Chimney swifts are an asset to the community. We need to help them. They help us. There birds are an important asset to a vibrant and distinct urban community.

Bring on the towers. Go bugeaters!

August 2005. Babbling Brook 14(8): 4. Newsletter of the Wachiska Audubon Society.