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Chimney Swifts are facing some serious challenges as the country modernizes and removes nesting sites. This project is what little I can do to help them survive.

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Project Links-->    Introduction - Finished Project - Drawings - Parts - Foundation - Base - Frame - Exterior - Interior - Top - Trim - Guard - Tips

The Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) is a delightful small bird with an astonishing ability to fly. He takes flight at dawn and, unlike the swallow or martin, does not land until dusk when he returns to his roost for the night. He is unable to perch like other birds or walk on the ground. He must cling to the sides of trees or other rough surfaces when he is not flying. Before the Europeans colonized North America, these birds nested and roosted in hollow trees scattered across the country east of the Rocky Mountains. With the loss of the extensive and old hardwood forests these birds had to find other nesting locations. Fortunately for them, the new homes of the settlers had chimneys that suited these birds just fine - hence the name Chimney Swift. Today, more and more people are placing caps on their chimneys or are constructing chimneys with smooth steel interiors and the Chimney Swift is losing a significant number of nesting sites.

About five years ago I became interested in helping these feathered friends in any way possible. I had seen some in the area and thought it would be nice if I could get them to nest in my yard. If you look at the Birds section of this sight you will see that I have been able to attract a good number of birds through habitat development. I believed there must be something I could do for the Chimney Swift as well. I had to cap my chimney because of a persistent leak during rainfall that I couldn't repair so the chimney was out of the line up. My research on the internet led me to the Driftwood Wildlife Association in Austin, Texas, where I found everything I needed - including plans for building a Chimney Swift Tower. The people who manage this Association (Paul and Georgean Kyle) are wonderfully cooperative and enthusiastic Chimney Swift fans.

I immediately set about building the tower and installed it with great expectations. It was a challenge to erect it by myself so I had to rely on friends to assist. But once in place it looked regal and inviting. Unfortunately, the Chimney Swifts had other ideas. It took three years on the market before a pair of the lovely birds decided they liked it and moved in. They have been steady occupants for two years now. These are pictures of the Chimney Swift nests they built in 2007 and 2008 and the tower they used.

Chimney Swift NestChimney Swift Nestspacer

In the fall of 2008 after my Swift Family Younglove had gone to Brazil for the winter I thought about increasing the number of rental units for these wonderful birds. The difficulty I had erecting my first tower because of its weight caused me to think about an easier, more maintainable tower that one person could erect with minimal difficulty. I spent many hours just thinking of the process; then many hours drawing plans and throwing them away. Finally, early in January 2009 I finished the planning and began the work. The pages listed below contain the detail necessary for anyone to build a tower as I did in January 2009. It took me three weekends of labor to complete the project but that included many learning events and redos as I revised the plan when faced with reality. Anyone following these instructions should be able to complete the job in two reasonably paced weekends. The key is to not get ahead of yourself, measure twice, cut once, and insist on accurate measurements throughout the construction. If you follow this advice, it's just a matter of putting it all together - a piece at a time.

Good luck. If you have questions, send them my way - I'll try to assist from lessons learned in my experience...bigg at (use @ for at).

  • The Completed Project:   See what it will look like when you are done.
  • The Drawings:   Get an idea of what is involved in the construction and the engineering involved.
  • The Parts List:   A complete listing of everything you will need to build the tower.
  • The Foundation:   The critical part is the first thing you will do ...demand accuracy and quality here or you will face problems later.
  • The Base:   This is where it all begins. Take the time needed. Again, insist on quality here and the rest will be easy.
  • The Frame:   What holds it all together.  Easily put in place.
  • The Exterior:   The shell will help align the structure and keep it within specifications.
  • The Interior:   Here's where the Swifts will live. The construction deserves quality.
  • The Top:   Making the front door inviting and providing an element of protection.
  • The Trim:   Wrapping up the project and allowing for future access.
  • The Lessons Learned / Tips:   Little things of additional value.