Andrew Flemming, Eagle Scout, Helps our Swifts

Chimney Swift Overhead - Photo Jim Mcculloch

Andrew Flemming is a member of Hilliard Boy Scout Troop 814

While seeking an Eagle Scout project, I became aware of the need for Chimney Swift towers from a friend of my mother, Darlene Sillick. She shared information and tips about building towers.

Chimney Swifts are small to medium size birds with long, curved wings and black to dark brown plumage. They are nicknamed “flying cigars”. They have extremely short legs, and do not perch, but cling vertically to rough surfaces, such as chimneys, on which they roost or raise their young. They are beneficial because they eat thousands of flying insects daily. They are in Ohio from April to October, and winter in the Amazon basin of Peru.

Because there are fewer hollow trees available, and because people cap their chimneys, swifts can be assisted by man-made Chimney Swift towers. After looking at a few towers that have been built in the Columbus area, and reviewing plans for towers, I thought building a Chimney Swift tower would be a fun and helpful Eagle Scout project.

The park manager at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, Tom Cochran, was enthusiastic about adding a Chimney Swift tower to the park. The park is nearby, just west of Hilliard. Tom asked his colleague, Mike, to show me a few potential locations they thought would be successful. I chose a site in a field east of the Darby Bend Lakes, and close to Amity Road.

The 15-foot tower is made of wood and mounted 3 feet off the ground on angle irons, which are sunk into a cement base. The space below the tower provides ventilation and an opening to clean out debris as needed in the future. We shopped at local hardware stores and requested and received discounted prices. My grandmother also donated to help with expenses.

The first scout workday, July 31, was to dig the hole for a 45” square base, and pour the cement around the angle irons. We used 1,400 pounds of cement mix and brought water up from the lake in buckets. We had a generator for the rented cement mixer. The scouts assisted in smoothing the cement, learning about working with a trowel. We had 7 scouts volunteer on this workday.

The second scout workday, August 14, was to raise the tower, connecting it to the angle irons. My father and I built three 4-foot sections of the tower at home, prior to the workday. We rented scaffolding for this step of the project. The boys enjoyed climbing up to add each section. To finish work, we added insulating sheets covered by exterior plywood and 1×4 strips of wood at the outer edges. We covered the top piece with flashing to keep predators from coming inside. We had 7 scouts helping on this workday.

All who worked on the project are hopeful that the swifts will find the tower next spring when they return to Ohio and adopt it as an active roosting site.