Important Bird Areas

District of Willimantic Chimney Swift Roosts

District of Willimantic, Town of Windham (Windham County)

Status: Global Level IBA

Location: 41° 42' 47.8794" N, 72° 13' 3" W

Minor—Lack of awareness by residents about the importance of Willimantic in Chimney Swift conservation
Potential—Renovations to chimneys that would render them unsuitable as roosting sites

Site Description: This IBA consists of chimneys within the District of Willimantic, the surrounding neighborhoods, a section of the Willimantic River, and areas of deciduous forest within the District limits. The chimney located at Town Hall (979 Main Street) and other large chimneys within the District are important to Chimney Swifts as evening roost sites for non-breeding individuals in summer and migrating birds in spring and fall, while the smaller chimneys of nearby residences likely support breeding pairs. The section of the Willimantic River and forested areas at the south edge of the District, as well as surrounding neighborhoods, are used for foraging.

IBA Criteria Met:

1) Site Important to Species of Global Concern: The juxtaposition of large chimneys, the Willimantic River, deciduous forest, parks, and neighborhoods in the District of Willimantic make the District an important area for Chimney Swifts, a species listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Chimney Swift Data for Windham Town Hall

2012 – Chimney Swifts were first observed roosting in the chimney on 6/5/12. An average of 289 birds used the chimney each night between 7/10/12 and 8/9/12.

2013 – More than 250 birds roosted in the chimney each night between 6/3/13-6/5/13 and 7/15/13 – 7/22/13, approx. 200 birds used the chimney between 7/27/13 – 8/14/13.

6) Site Important for Long-term Research and/or Monitoring Projects that Contribute Substantially to Ornithology, Bird Conservation, and/or Education: The CT Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division monitors chimneys within the District.    

Additional Bird Information: The CT DEEP Wildlife Division, with the help of volunteers, has been monitoring Chimney Swift use of large chimneys in Willimantic since 2011. Over the last few years, Chimney Swifts have been observed using the town hall chimney, then switching to another large chimney a block away, or roosting in both chimneys simultaneously. During the summer, upwards of 250 birds use the two chimneys. During spring migration, even more can be found roosting in one of the chimneys.

Existing Conservation Measures: Given the town hall chimney’s age, the Town Engineer, Joe Gardner, wasn’t surprised to discover in 2012 that the chimney needed work. Given what he knew about the birds, Joe waited until after they flew south for the winter to have the chimney inspected. It was discovered that the furnace needed to be replaced. However, the new, more efficient furnace would require a flue liner, rendering the chimney unsuitable for the swifts because they would not be able to grip the steel liner.

Gardner worked with DEEP and UConn biologists to ensure that the Chimney Swifts could still call the town hall home. He was able to coordinate with heating specialists to vent the new furnace through an alternate opening, thus allowing the swifts to continue using their preferred chimney.

The Willimantic Brew Pub in collaboration with CT DEEP and UCONN runs an Annual Chimney Swift Night to increase awareness about Chimney Swifts and the Town Hall Roost.

There are also plans to place a sign outside Town Hall about the importance of the roosting site.

Sources of Information:

How you can help, right now