CHIMNEY SWIFT TOWER
The Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica is a small dark coloured bird shaped like a cigar with wings. An aerial insectivore, it feeds on the wing, consuming up to 1,000 insects per day or more when feeding nestlings. It is unable to perch or stand and clings upright on vertical surfaces. It is on the Threatened List, both provincially and federally, and in Canada its population has declined by 95% over the past forty years. Habitat loss seems to be the major cause of this decline, but it seems a lack of certain insects may also be a contributing factor.
In Bracebridge many folks recall seeing a flock of about two dozen birds circling over the downtown area, but in recent years fewer than ten have been observed. It is thought that this may be the result of chimneys being capped on buildings in downtown Bracebridge, and so MFN decided that a tower mimicing a chimney should be built in Bracebridge to provide a possible roosting and nesting site.
With funding available through the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and the generous support of Lafarge Canada and Fowler Construction, and with Town of Bracebridge approval, a spot on Entrance Drive just past Bird Mills Mews was selected as a suitable building site and a twelve foot tower with an interior chamber of about fourteen inches square, lined with rough lumber for swift footholds, was constructed. The purpose of the tower is not just to provide much needed habitat for the Chimney Swift, but also to create an opportunity for education of the public to the plight of this species. The site selected is close to the trails system and historic landmarks of interest to visitors and residents alike. A butterfly garden was created around the base of the tower and an interpretive panel was installed at the front of the tower explaining the purpose of the tower and thanking those who made it possible. The tower is monitored on a regular basis by Club members for signs of nesting or roosting activity in the spring and summer, and each fall the chamber is checked for droppings and/or nests.