"We love to sit and watch them fly, wheeling and turning, one pass in formation, the next minute they are all over the sky. I sometimes think they're interacting with me and one afternoon after the brood fledged, I'm pretty sure they all came flying past me, gliding in formation the way that they do, as if to show-off the new family. Their aerial gymnastics as they flutter down into the chimney are also something to see." - Tom and Gina Payne, Mooresville, N.C. Homeowners and Audubon Supporters
Tom and Gina Payne were inspired to uncap their chimney and create a bird-friendly space to a nesting pair to roost.
Thomas Payne was reading an Audubon Society Facebook post about Chimney Swifts when a light came on: the birds that had been swooping around the house in the spring and summer were not Purple Martins, but Chimney Swifts. And their flight pattern was more than a chance to snag bugs flying over the house -- they were eyeing the chimney.
Thomas and his wife Gina had never used their fireplace. When they hired a brick mason to repair some damage to the chimney, they learned how opening the chimney would be a simple matter of clipping away the wire mesh that had been placed over the opening.
“And so the next morning I was on the roof and the welcome mat went out.”
The swifts moved in quickly after Thomas opened up the chimney. One night Gina counted as many as 12 birds using the chimney as a night time roost. Within days of the Chimney Swifts’ annual spring return, the Paynes could hear the sound of wings as they fluttered down into the chimney to build their nest.
When the young hatched, Gina could hear their high-pitched feeding chirps of young nestlings.
“We wondered how much longer they would rely on the parents for food and then suddenly they were gone and out in the world. It's very humbling to think that we helped these little creatures in some way.”
Thomas and Gina keep their yard bird-friendly. “We use no pesticides or herbicides on the lawn. There is a bird bath in both the front and back yard that we keep refreshed on a daily basis. Any future plantings will be North Carolina native and bird, butterfly, critter-friendly. The front and back yards have 'wild' areas where we don't mow and are left to whatever nature puts there.”
The swifts have not been a nuisance in any way. The Paynes are happy these Chimney Swifts found a home and hope they will return year after year.
Throughout 2016, Audubon North Carolina is empowering citizens to help protect the Chimney Swift, our 2016 Bird of the Year! With the Bird-Friendly Communities initiative, Audubon North Carolina shares actions everyone can take to help urban and suburban birds thrive. To learn more ways you can take action to benefit birds in your home and community, sign-up for our Bird-Friendly Communities bulletin here.