Not only are the good people of Brunswick, Maine, making sure that their new elementary school will be fully outfitted with “green” technologies, they have also looked out for the needs of visiting Chimney Swifts.

These small, cigar-shaped, birds migrate between the mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and Canada. Along the way, swifts by the hundreds have been roosting in the chimney of the old high school. In fact, it is considered the larget known roost in Maine. But that building – and its chimney – are being torn down to make way for the new school.

What to do? The twice-yearly spectacle – once in May and then again in August – attracted birders and others to watch the spectacle of hundreds of birds swooping down into the chimney for the night. People mobilized to find a way to provide a roost for their visitors. Schoolchildren petitioned the school board. Funds were raised. As a result, this May, the northbound travelers will find a new brick replica of the old chimney waiting for them.

But why a chimney?

Chimney swifts (appropriately named – they’ve been clocked at 100 mph) cannot perch, but they can cling to vertical surfaces – like the sides of brick chimneys. At one time, they roosted inside old hollow trees, but as development spread and habitat reduced, they adapted by roosting in chimneys, hence the name. Modern chimneys are less suitable, since most are now lined with ceramic tiles or metal sheeting, making clinging impossible. This has caused a sharp reduction in their numbers.

In some places they’re considered a nuisance and a fire hazard, but thankfully, not in Brunswick.

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