Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Tower for Flying Cigars

Flying Cigars—What?  Birders know; the Chimney Swifts have long been happily known as such.  The birds spend most of their time on the wing, coming to roost only at night.  This and their shape, cigars on wings with a very short stubby tail, earn them this name.

However, for all the joy one derives from observing these delights, they are in trouble.  Their nesting sites were once old hollowed trees and open chimneys.  Our modern penchant for removing old growth forests coupled with building chimneys with covers has reduced the number of swifts.

The Bastrop County Audubon Society (BCAS) has joined other communities and entities in building a Swift Tower to provide nesting and roosting for these wonderful birds.  The tower is also built in memorial to one of its long standing members and officers, Judy Ing.

Chimney Swifts are quite beneficial.  They feed upon flying insects; mosquitoes, biting flies, and termites. One generally notices these birds high up in the sky as they feed on the wing.  They chatter incessantly.  Even though these birds appear quite small, and their bodies are only five inches, they have a large wing span of 12.5 inches.  These birds are built for speed and pump their wings alternatingly making them adept at aerobatics.  Couple with a wide mouth bordered by whiskers, they are indeed feeding machines.

BCAS erected this tower to attract swifts knowing full well their benefit to Bastrop and the surrounding area.  This project, offered to the community of Bastrop, is one small testament of its mission: “to promote the conservation, restoration, and enjoyment of natural resources and habitats for birds and other wildlife.”

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