January 15, 2016—We're thrilled to announce Audubon has designated the chimneys of Mitchell Elementary School and Woodbury Middle School, both part of Regional School District 14, as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
According to Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, Audubon Connecticut Important Bird Areas Program Coordinator: “By recognizing this area as an IBA, we hope to increase awareness about these birds amongst Regional School District 14 students, parents, and teachers. Increased awareness leads to good stewardship, and we are organizing a June event so that students and their families can watch these amazing birds as they swirl into the chimneys on these properties.”
“This is a great opportunity for Regional School District 14 students to learn about chimney swifts and their habitat needs.” Explains Dr. Anna Cutaia-Leonard, Superintendent for Regional School District 14. “By sharing their knowledge, our students can help to conserve this species.”
Chimney Swifts have been declining since the 1960s; lack of nest sites (chimneys and hollow trees) in some areas and possibly a shift in diet that coincided with the use of DDT are thought to be reasons for the decline. This area is the 28th addition to Audubon Connecticut’s Important Bird Areas inventory, the first focused on chimney swift conservation. The IBA program is a voluntary, non-regulatory global effort coordinated in the U.S. by the National Audubon Society. More about IBAs at www.audubon.org/bird/iba/index.html.
The overall goal of Audubon Connecticut’s IBA program is to identify a network of key areas in the state that support sustainable populations of birds in greatest need of conservation. For official recognition as an IBA, the site must meet one or more of a set of standardized scientific criteria that were developed by a committee of bird experts from throughout the state. Once an area is identified as an IBA, Audubon Connecticut works with local residents and other conservation partners to increase awareness about birds and the importance of the area to greatest conservation need species, improve habitat in the area, and find funding to support these efforts.
The Woodbury Chimney Swift Roost (Mitchell Elementary School, Woodbury Middle School, and the surrounding area) is a globally Important Bird Area for Chimney Swifts, a species identified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as near-threatened. Chimney Swifts are aerial insectivores and are most known for their amazing flight demonstrations, when Chimney Swifts gather in enormous flocks around large chimneys during migration. The schools’ chimneys are used as nocturnal roosts and have been monitored by the CT Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) with the help of volunteers. The Mitchell Elementary School chimney hosts 100 or more swifts during the summer, while the Woodbury Middle School chimney serves as a major fall migration roost with close to 800 birds observed on one occasion.
“There are a number of ways that people can participate in Chimney Swift conservation”, says CT DEEP wildlife biologist Shannon Kearney. “If you have nesting swifts, keep residential chimneys open for nesting. They pose no health risk and eat a third of their body weight in bugs each day! When landscaping, choose native species and avoid pesticide use. You will promote a better balance of native invertebrate food for the birds. Also, identify and protect important roosting areas, such as this roost site in Woodbury. They make it possible for the birds to conserve enough energy to finish their 3,000 mile trip to the Amazon Basin every year, not to mention, they are a quite entertaining to watch!”
For more information on Chimney Swifts, select here.