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How to Build a Chimney Swift Habitat

According to the Humane Society, the chimney swift, Chaetura pelagica, is the most populous species of swift in the United States. During the summer months, the chimney swift's range extends throughout the eastern United States and the Midwest. Unlike other birds, chimney swifts are unable to stand or perch upright, and therefore historically they nested in large hollow trees. As the human population grew and land was cleared to make way for houses and farms, the birds' natural habitat began to disappear. Chimneys, which are remarkably similar to hollow trees, became the next best alternative. Currently the chimney swift population is in decline. In order to maintain a healthy population of chimney swifts, you can construct your own artificial chimney swift habitat, also called a chimney swift tower.

As people have been using screens to cover the flues of their chimneys, chimney swifts once again are losing their habitat.

Step 1

Design an artificial chimney — or shaft — that is at least 8 feet deep and closed off at the bottom. The inside diameter should be at least 11 inches. An inside diameter closer to 2 feet will make your chimney swift habitat much easier to clean and maintain.

Step 2

Cut 2-inch by 4-inch boards and trim pieces to match the height of the chimney swift tower. The width of the 5/8-inch siding should be cut to match the width of the inside walls of the chimney swift tower. The width of the 5/8-inch plywood should match the width of the outside of the chimney. The length of the siding and the plywood should be trimmed to match the height of the chimney.

Step 3

Screw together — using 2-1/2-inch screws — two vertical 2-inch by 4-inch boards placed perpendicularly to each other. Each pair of 2-inch by 4-inch boards will act as a corner bracket for the plywood and siding.

Step 4

Attach 5/8-inch siding to the inside corner of the 2-inch by 4-inch boards with 1-1/4-inch screws. Be sure to use siding that has grooves cut at regular intervals so that the chimney swifts will have something to hold on to. Attach the siding so that the grooves are facing the inside of the chimney and are horizontal to the ground.

Step 5

Fasten the plywood to the outside of the corners created by the 2-inch by 4-inch boards with 1-1/4-inch screws. Attach the trim boards to the outside corners of the chimney swift habitat using finish nails.

Step 6

Stabilize your chimney swift tower by attaching it to the north or east side of another structure. The top of your tower should extend approximately 5 feet above any adjacent structure

Step 7

Attach a shade — constructed from 5/8-inch plywood — to the top of the tower to prevent overheating. This is important for chimney swift towers that are less than 12 feet in height.

Step 8

Finish the outside of your chimney swift tower with paint or varnish. Leave the inside unfinished.

Things You Will Need

  • 5/8-inch siding, 2 to 3 sheets
  • 2-1/2-inch screws
  • 1-1/4-inch screws
  • Finish nails
  • 5/8-inch plywood, 2 to 3 sheets
  • 8 2-inch by 4-inch boards
  • 8 trim boards
  • Circular saw
  • Table saw

About the Author

Based in San Diego, Wesley Davis has been writing and editing since receiving a grant from the National Geographic Foundation in 2005 to publish a children's science book. He now writes for Limelight Education. Davis holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from California State University-Chico.

Photo Credits

  • chimney stack image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com