Emerging Architects Design Downtown Bird Habitat

Lamar Smith and Erik Lizee of McWane Science Center, along with Andy Coleman of Birmingham Audubon Society, discuss the chimney tower site requirements with emerging professionals of the Alabama Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Lamar Smith and Erik Lizee of McWane Science Center, along with Andy Coleman of Birmingham Audubon Society, discuss the chimney tower site requirements with emerging professionals of the Alabama Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Birmingham – Chimney Swifts are a common summer sight in downtown. This tiny bird with a cigar-shaped body soars and dives all day long, eating up to one-third of its body weight in insects during never ending flight. Emerging professional members of the American Institute of Architects Birmingham responded to a challenge by Birmingham Audubon to design habitat for these birds whose weak feet do not allow them to perch, but seek shelter with rough surfaces from which they cling.

Chris Kay of Appleseed Workshop and Micajah Tucker of Architecture Works, were announced as the first and second place winners, respectively, of Birmingham Audubon’s design challenge today during a reception at McWane Science Center where the Chimney Swift Tower will be located. The Chimney Swift Tower will be located on the top level of McWane’s parking deck and provide habitat for nesting and roosting swifts and an opportunity for collecting data on this species, which continues to lose habitat.

Design Winner- Chris Kay, Appleseed Workshop 2nd Place- Micajah Tucker, Architecture Works

Design Winner- Chris Kay, Appleseed Workshop
2nd Place- Micajah Tucker, Architecture Works

Design of the Chimney Swift Tower called for participants to understand the species, consider rooftop habitat for birds that can be accessed by Birmingham Audubon for data collection, and provide an aesthetically pleasing exterior for growing rooftop views. Chimney Swifts are impacted by a continuing loss of natural habitat, including hollow trees, and artificial habitat, including uncapped chimneys.

Ecological services provided by the swifts are more easily viewed in late August through September when thousands of birds gather at sunset to roost together during their migration to South America. The swifts continue eating insects up until the moment they enter their roost for the evening, their tiny silhouettes forming a tornado-like shape as they plunge into the roost site, thrilling viewers amazed by the speed and number of birds. During Birmingham Audubon’s final Chimney Swift count in September 2014, approximately 7000 birds were recorded at one downtown location.

The Chimney Swift Tower at McWane Science Center is part of Birmingham Audubon’s Urban Bird Habitat Initiative funded through the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and private donors. The Chimney Swift Tower design project was a partnership of Birmingham Audubon, McWane Science Center, and American Institute of Architects Birmingham. To learn more about Chimney Swift habitat or the Urban Bird Habitat Initiative, contact Andy Coleman, 205-719-3678 or andycoleman@birminghamaudubon.org.

Chimney Swifts are currently roosting in downtown Birmingham. Join us for Chimney Swifts Nights Out in August and September. See video from 2014 Birmingham Audubon Chimney Swifts Nights Out: