May 22, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 30 June 2011 11:11
Birds may nest in the wildest — or most domesticated — places.
Julia Gabriele of New Canaan discovered just how wild — and domesticated — this month when she found a bird had built its nest inside her chimney.
“The chimney is 215 years old and undergoing a much-needed renovation, but work has come to a complete halt as this mother is refusing to leave her nest — with five eggs in it! — and is in full assault mode on the workers!
“It’s amazing to me that a bird would find a nook nearly 20 feet down a chimney for a place to build a nest — how could she have thought her little ones would learn how to fly? Do you know if it’s common for birds to build nests so far down in a chimney?”
The Gabriele house has apparently become home to a family of Chimney Swifts, a species that summers in the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada, and winters in northwestern South America.
Before Europeans settled our area, these birds would build their nests on the walls of caves but mostly inside big, hollow trees. These cavities provided safe havens from most kinds of predators.
While the early Americans cut down most of the large trees, they also built big chimneys — including Julia’s. Chimneystacks quickly substituted for the trees and became popular nesting sites, so much so that the species became known as the Chimney Swift.
Modern fireplace chimneys, however, use flues that are too narrow for these birds and some ornithologists believe that may be a reason why the population of Chimney Swifts has been decreasing. Nonetheless, these adaptable birds have taken advantage of other human structures, such as airshafts common in cities, and consequently their numbers in urban and suburban areas are greater than in the countryside.
Julia’s chimney has plenty of room for a fledging swift to learn flight. These birds have long, claw-like feet designed to cling to the sides of trees or rocks. In fact, Chimney Swifts are incapable of perching like most songbirds.
They spend most of their time flying in flocks, consuming huge amounts of insects and ballooning spiders.
Norwalk Island Birdwatching Cruises, aboard the C.J. Toth Quest ferry, with guide, Sundays, July 10, July 24, Aug. 7, Tuesday, July 12, Saturday, July 30, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 7:30 to 10:30, adults $22, kids $12, Norwalk Seaport Association, from ferry dock at Water and Washington Streets, South Norwalk, seaport.org, 203-838-9444.
Sharon Audubon Festival, nature walks, displays, talks, music, food, more, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13 and 14, 9 to 5, Audubon Sharon, 860-364-0520 or check www.sharon.audubon.org.
Copyright 2011 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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