Two Towers Welcome Swifts to Black Mountain

For years, Susan Cameron watched Chimney Swifts swirl around the chimney at local restaurant Louise's Kitchen – a two-story building in Black Mountain. In 2015, the building was reroofed and the old chimney removed. Losing the chimney prompted Sue – a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff member – to reach out to Aimee Tomcho of Audubon North Carolina and Tom Tribble of Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society for advice on how the roost could be replaced.

With guidance from Audubon staff and volunteers, as well as Chris Kelly of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, local residents scouted out locations and chose two spots that would be likely to attract swifts.

Local resident and project organizer Libba Tracy said, “In Black Mountain, watching the birds swarm a chimney is an annual event and a simple pleasure for townspeople. It offers an opportunity for people to gather and witness this marvel together.”

“One roost was taken down this year, so we found a way to build two more in its place.”

Dedication to Conservation

Black Mountain has a history of dedication to sustainable and bird-friendly activities. Prior to the construction of the towers, citizens organized projects to benefit butterflies and other pollinators including hummingbirds, as well as constructing a community garden.

The Black Mountain Chimney Swift Tower project is a public/private partnership driven by a coalition of local nonprofit organizations, community groups and the public sector. The opportunity to support even more community engagement inspired Town Manager Matt Settlemyer to support the project.

According to Settlemyer, “Western North Carolina communities stand for the protection and preservation of our local communities, and the Town of Black Mountain wants to be a positive player and a driver of that mission.”

“We are always happy to partner with other groups to continue environmental preservation efforts in Black Mountain. The Town has a long history of dedication to sustainable projects and the towers are a continuation of that effort.”

Community Collaboration

The towers will be celebrated throughout September when Chimney Swifts will peak in the area. Libba Tracy, local artist and a trained Audubon Ambassador, organized Black Mountain’s For the Birds. Festivities include a month-long exhibit of bird art by local artists, an educational program for more than 300 local grade-school children and a reception at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts featuring a talk by Elisha Mitchell’s Tom Tribble.

Build Support for Swift Towers

The Black Mountain Chimney Swift Towers showcase what can be accomplished when community groups come together. In Black Mountain, a network of public and private partners collaborated to make this project a reality.

This grassroots collaboration between conservation organizations, local groups and the Town is a success story that can be replicated in other communities. Building a Chimney Swift Tower can help support swift populations statewide. Learn how you can find resources to construct a swift tower in your area. Contact Audubon NC for more details.

  1. 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.
  2. Collaboration is Key: There are many private and nonprofit groups across the state that will support bird conservation projects. Reach out to Audubon NC or other community groups to see what resources you can each offer.
  3. Advocate for Support: The cost of materials to construct a tower are minimal, and can be covered through grants, individual donations, or even support from local government. A second tower was made possible because of support from the Town.

Fall Migration Events

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts will host the “For the Birds” exhibit throughout September including a special presentation by Elisha Mitchell Audubon President Tom Tribble on Friday, September 9 at 6 PM.

Tribble will also host a Swifts Night Out event for the community to enjoy flocks returning to roost and educate the community on bird-friendly actions.

Statewide Success

In Raleigh, Wake Audubon constructed a Chimney Swift tower in partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. In Black Mountain, a network of public and private partners collaborated to make this project a success. Audubon North Carolina, Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Black Mountain Center for the Arts and the Town of Black Mountain all provided support.

If swifts roost in the towers, this project could lead to further expansion. More sites have already been identified for future towers. Show your support for Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities efforts across North Carolina. Click here to make a donation.

The Chimney Swift is Audubon North Carolina’s 2016 Bird of the Year. Click here to see all the activities you can take to help this urban bird thrive. Bird-Friendly Communities is a partnership program that focuses conservation efforts where most people live - in cities and towns. To learn more about this program, click here.