EVANSVILLE, Ind. | When the annual migration of chimney swifts arrives from South America later this month, there will be some new lodgings available for them.
Evansville resident Jim Lodato has built and installed two 14-foot towers designed to emulate the chimneys the birds often use for homes.
"They are only here in the summer because they are insect eaters," Lodato told the Evansville Courier & Press.
With their distinctive cigar-shaped bodies and gracefully curved wings, the birds are easy to spot in the air, which is where they spend most of their time. The birds mostly eat flying insects and even drink and bathe from the air by flying low to skim water surfaces, according to the Audubon Society.
At night the birds nest in chimneys and other artificial structures, building nests on the inside walls, according to the Audubon Society. It is believed the birds lived in hollow trees before North America was settled but that they adapted to using man-made structures.
However, Lodato said the number of chimney swifts is declining, partly due to a loss of suitable nesting sites as chimneys disappear or are capped.
"I don't blame people. I have capped my chimney too," he said.
The chimney towers he built are his way of helping the birds, said Lodato, who considers himself an amateur birder.
He has installed one on a lot at Raben Tire & Auto Service on North Fares Avenue, with materials paid for by manager Larry Raben, Lodato said.
A second tower was installed at the demonstration garden of the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association on the Lloyd Expressway near the Evansville State Hospital, with materials donated by the Evansville Audubon Society.
The towers are rough on the inside so the birds can perch on the walls and attach their nests. The outsides, however, are covered with smooth siding and the towers are located far enough from buildings and trees to discourage predators such as raccoons and squirrels.
Lodato said he admires the birds.
"They are an interesting bird. When they beat their wings it looks like they are beating one and then the other. It doesn't look like they are moving their wings together but actually they are beating their wings so fast it just looks that way," he said.