Indiana Daily Student

IU funds new home for chimney swifts

The 12 foot tall bird habitat tower at WonderLab's Lester P. Bushnell WonderGarden is one of five to be built throughout the Bloomington community next year. The habitat tower was funded by an IU Ostrom grant and built by Rusty Peterson.
The 12 foot tall bird habitat tower at WonderLab's Lester P. Bushnell WonderGarden is one of five to be built throughout the Bloomington community next year. The habitat tower was funded by an IU Ostrom grant and built by Rusty Peterson.

IU is funding a new home for nearly 250 chimney swifts.

Construction recently began on a 12-foot-tall bird house, according to an IU press release. Though chimney swifts typically nest in hollow trees and chimneys, the species’ habitat has been threatened as hollow trees have become scarcer and chimneys have been covered.

The bird house, found at WonderLab’s Lester P. Bushnell WonderGarden, is one of five to be constructed across Bloomington next year, according to the release. Other locations include Harmony School and Sherwood Oaks Park.

The bird house is part of a project titled “Swifts in the City.” The project is led by Jessica Hite, a doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology and a board member at Bloomington’s Sassafras Audubon Society.

“By combining art, science and technology, this project will take an innovative approach to making public landscapes work for both people and conservation,” Hite said in the release. “We’re fusing public art and science to not only provide an essential breeding habitat for chimney swifts but also engage multiple groups in environmental outreach and education and to contribute to long-term local and national monitoring programs of these birds.”

Chimney swifts are considered “near threatened” in the United States by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and “federally threatened” in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered, according to the release.

Though people are building swift towers across the U.S., many towers are needed, according to the release. Though hundreds of birds can share each swift tower to rest during the night, only one pair of birds can share each swift tower to breed during the day.

“It’s quite deceiving when you see these large colonies of swifts because you assume that their populations are healthy,” Hite said in the release. “It’s a common misperception that has affected other species since gone extinct, such as the passenger pigeon.

The bird house will include two “swift-cams,” closed-circuit cameras connected to a monitor at a kiosk within a museum.

“This tower will provide a wonderful opportunity for community outreach and education,” said Ellen Ketterson, the faculty sponsor of the project, in the release. “As a researcher and bird-lover, I was happy to lend my support to Jessica’s work to protect these charismatic birds.”

Bloomington-based craftsman Rusty Peterson is constructing the bird house at WonderLab’s Lester P. Bushnell WonderGarden, while Bloomington-based artist Joe LaMantia will decorate the bird house in collaboration with artists from Stone Belt, which supports individuals with developmental 
disabilities.

Sassafras Audubon Society volunteers will assist with the long-term maintenance of the bird house.

“This project is really all about involving the community,” Hite said in the release. “We want everyone involved to experience the sense of belonging, pride and accomplishment that accompanies collaborative artwork. Stone Belt’s mission to empower their members through art and hands-on community projects is the cornerstone of our project.”

Final construction of the IU-funded tower will be completed in the coming days, according to the release. Decoration of the IU-funded tower will be completed in the early spring.

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