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Chimney swifts circle overhead in Lewes

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Austin, Texas has its bats. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people visit the bridge in Austin to witness the bat flight, generating $10 million in tourism revenue annually. In Lewes, while there is nothing like the bats of Austin, there is a small spectacle most spring and summer nights just as it starts to get dark. The flocks seen circling overhead on Second Street near the Hotel Rodney are not bats. They are chimney swifts.

Chimney swifts are a native bird species that breeds in eastern North America and winters in western South America. They are relatively small birds, about 5 to 6 inches long and weighing about one ounce. They spend almost all of their waking life aloft. Unlike most other birds, they cannot perch. Instead, they cling to vertical walls inside chimneys or in hollow trees or caves.

It is fortunate that the Hotel Rodney and perhaps other locations in Lewes have chimneys where the chimney swifts roost. They come in to roost as the last light is fading each evening.

Chimney swifts feed on the wing during daylight hours. These birds are monogamous breeders, normally mating for life. Studies have shown that they feed on insects, and thus help keep pests in check. Researchers estimate that a pair of adults feeding young consumes the weight equivalent of at least 5,000-6,000 housefly-sized insects per day.

According to the Chimney Swift Conservation Association, chimney swifts are declining in numbers throughout North America. "We should all be concerned about their plight and do whatever we can to encourage their survival. They do not require acres of unspoiled wilderness, expansive wetlands or complicated wildlife management plans. They only require one square foot of unused column like our chimneys during the summer when we don't need them...and a little tolerance."

Copyright 2016 Cape Gazette, Lewes, Delaware. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 3, 2016

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