Build Your Own Chimney Swift Tower

Across the state, volunteers and bird lovers are taking swift action to help protect Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities 2016 Bird of the Year – the Chimney Swift. Chimney Swifts are in steep decline, and the chimneys where they roost are rapidly disappearing as old chimneys are capped or torn down.

Uncapping a chimney, reporting swift sightings here or participating in a fall Swift Watch are great ways to get involved and help these urban birds thrive – and building a new chimney tower is another way to make sure these birds have a place to roost while they fly through North Carolina.

You can rally your community to construct a tower that benefits Chimney Swifts where you live. Towers are already constructed in Raleigh and Black Mountain. Now it’s your turn!

Here’s how to get started.

1. Identify Partners: Building a Tower is a great way to help Chimney Swifts thrive in your community, and you may want to reach out to natural partners like nature centers, schools, scouting groups or faith communities. If there is an Audubon chapter in your area, be sure to reach out to them as well.

2. Find a Site: School campuses, church grounds, and public parks all make good sites for Chimney Swift towers. Swifts will find them most easily if they are in an open area at least 25 feet from trees.

3. Select a Tower Design: We recommend the kiosk-style tower, which is 12 feet tall, free-standing, and designed for nesting and small numbers of roosting birds. Chimney Swift Towers – New Habitat for America’s Mysterious Birds by Paul D. Kyle and Georgean Z. Kyle is a great resource.

4. Raise Funds for Materials: Tower construction can range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on materials. The Audubon NC recommended tower design costs around $600 per tower. The cost of materials to construct a tower can be covered through grants, individual donations, or even support from local government. Identify conservation programs offered to cover the cost of your tower. Here’s a grant program from Wildlife Rehabilitators Inc. specifically for Chimney Swift towers in North Carolina.

5. Alert Audubon to Your Project: Email swift@audubon.org to help you choose a site that is likely to attract swifts.

6. Construct Your Tower Before Installation: Chimney Swift Towers are relatively easy to build and a few sections can be easily put together before you transport to a site. The tower sections are best constructed on a level concrete floor, such as a basement or garage floor to ensure even assembly.

7. Transport Your Tower: With your pre-assembled Tower, it will be easier to put the finishing touches together once you arrive. Assemble the final pieces and wait for Swifts to swirl!

8. Take the Next Step: Once you have completed your project, register your new Chimney Swift tower here. Please enter any existing towers here, too – we want to know the locations of all the Chimney Swift towers in North Carolina.

Download our Chimney Swift Tower instruction sheet for more details. 

Report your observations of Chimney Swifts nesting or roosting.

Click here to report your observations. If you’re already an eBird user, please enter your observations following these recommendations from eBird staff:

  • Include Chimney Swift Roost or Chimney Swift Nest in the Location Name.
  • Choose “Stationary Count”.
  • Include only Chimney Swifts on your checklist and select “No” to indicate you are not reporting all the species you were able to identify.
  • Resist the temptation to make the chimney or tower a hotspot.

Throughout the year, Audubon North Carolina is educating birders on actions everyone can take to help urban and suburban birds thrive. Click here to learn more about what you can do for the Chimney Swift – our 2016 Bird of the Year. For more information, email swift@audubon.org.

Audubon North Carolina is providing support to local Tower construction projects through the Bird-Friendly Communities initiative. Show your support for our efforts across North Carolina by making a donation today.