Rickety-chimney chimney swifts

The Soap Factory‘s rickety chimney didn’t win my Rickety Chimney Contest but it probably should have.

Soap Factory with downtown Minneapolis in the background

It has a crack running down the length of it and it’s been hit by lightning a couple of times, according to Ben Heywood, the art gallery’s executive director. He says they plan to repair the chimney. Good idea except for one thing:

Chimney swifts live in it. During the day, they launch themselves out of the chimney like miniature missiles, then they zip around and around in the sky above the chimney, catch bugs, and generally have a great time. At twilight, they dive back into the chimney one or two at a time. The birds are non-stop entertainment.

I’ve tried to get a photo, or better yet, a video, of the Soap Factory chimney swifts. This is what I got:

Blank sky above Soap Factory chimney

Nothing but blue sky. The birds are small and fast. Someone else had more luck:

Houston Nature Examiner photo

Heywood knows the birds are in his chimney. He doesn’t know whether the swifts will like the chimney when it’s repaired. “What I know about chimney swifts is absolutely zero,” he says. What I know is only a bit more than that, but an Internet search shows that lots of other people around the country are repairing their rickety chimneys, and the chimney swift population is declining.

The Driftwood Wildlife Association suggests building towers, or surrogate chimneys, for the insect-loving birds. After all, we install boxes on tree trunks for wood ducks, bird houses in the middle of restored prairies for the bluebirds, why not build a tower for chimney swifts?

An added bonus: if you turn a Soap Factory artist loose with a chimney swift tower, it could become an art project.

A YouTube video of chimney swifts

Thanks to Ben Heywood, and I wish him luck with his rickety chimney. And thanks to Dave for identifying the chimney swifts, which I thought were swallows.

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