Chimney Swifts take up temporary residence at Historic Arkansas Museum

Chimney Swifts take up temporary residence at Historic Arkansas Museum
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Historic Arkansas Museum
Friday, July 14th 2023
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During regular cleaning on Historic Arkansas Museum's grounds, a growing family had taken up residence.

HAM staff was regularly cleaning the loft over Plum Bayou Log House’s kitchen and discovered a nest of Chimney Swifts!

Caption: Note how the tail spines assist them in clinging to the upright surface. Source: Camera Studies of Wild Birds in their Homes (1911). Wikimedia Commons

Staff inspected the chimney and found chicks inside. After checking with some area experts like Dan Scheiman with Audubon Delta, we now know Chimney Swifts are a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so there isn’t much the staff can do until the chicks fledge. At that time, the nest can be taken down.

Scheiman says swifts have been nesting in chimneys since chimneys were first built in the New World. As people moved westward, so did the swifts. He says during colonial times, swifts still used hollow trees, but as those trees were being cut down for construction and logging, they turned to chimneys.

Caption: Nest of chimney-swift. Photo looking down chimney from Introduction to Zoology: A Guide to the Study of Animals, for the use of secondary schools (1900). Wikimedia Commons

Swifts build nests from sticks and saliva. This construction works well with rough surfaces like brick, so the Log House’s chimney is an ideal spot for them to nest. Modern chimneys are capped and often lined with steel, which is too slick for a swift’s nest. For more information on Chimney Swifts, check out this article from National Audobon Society (Chimney Swift | Audubon Field Guide).

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