Swift populations have dropped by more than half in the United States since the 1960s, and by a chilling 90 percent in Canada. Historically, Chimney Swifts used large, hollow trees for nesting and roosting, but with the loss of these trees during colonial settlement, the birds switched to human structures. They now depend on household chimneys for nesting and industrial-sized chimneys for roosting. But viable chimneys are also disappearing as homeowners are capping their chimneys, and as urban renewal projects often eliminate large chimneys. Raleigh, alone, has lost more than 20 roost chimneys in the last decade. Fortunately, groups around the country are working to mitigate the problem through innovative approaches.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake Audubon and Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon have teamed up to build a Chimney Swift Tower at the museum's Prairie Ridge Ecostation. The tower is 30 feet tall, and hosted a nesting pair of swifts this summer, but its primary purpose is to serve as a roost tower for thousands of birds during fall migration. The tower was partially funded by a national grant program, Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon, and the chapter also sold one-hundred-fifty inscribed bricks and secured other donations to complete the construction.