Priority Bird Monitoring and Management

Oakledge's Chimney Swift Tower

The story behind the Burlington's Oakledge Park Chimney Swift tower

Have you heard the chatter? As you walk through Burlington you might hear the chatter of Chimney Swifts high in the sky as they dive through the air foraging on the wing for insects. The other chatter you might hear is about the establishment of a tower in Oakledge Park in Burlington. (Click here for a dropped pin in google maps to find the tower.)

Audubon Vermont has been working with community members and partners to support the Chimney Swift population. Chimney Swifts are considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need by the Vermont State Action Plan. Their alarming decline is largely due to habitat loss, so we decided to create some habitat!

Chimney Swifts rely on chimneys during nesting and migration seasons. Chimney Swifts historically used large, hollow trees for nests and roosts, but as the old forests were cut down, they learned to use chimneys and other structures. Now, Chimney Swifts rely almost entirely on human-made structures for nest sites. Because they cannot perch like songbirds, Chimney Swifts need deep shafts in which to raise their families and roost at night. Free-standing Chimney Swift towers are an excellent nesting and roosting site.

This project came true through the help of the University of Vermont’s Natural Resources Service Project class. Due to COVID, the project took a full year and two different class groups to complete. The first group of students worked with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps to design and build the tower. They worked with Audubon Vermont’s Conservation Biologist Margaret Fowle to find the best location in Burlington where Chimney Swifts had already been observed. The next semester’s class worked with Audubon Vermont’s Youth Leadership Coordinator Rae Bronenkant to write a Chimney Swift tower building manual. They also finalized project plans and permitting with Burlington’s Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department. Due to COVID restrictions, the students were unable to put up the tower and host a public Chimney Swift event.

Students from the King Street Center created some amazing artwork for the Chimney Swift tower off-site. Once their artwork was dry it was mounted on the tower. On a chilly fall day, the pieces of the tower were all finally ready for installation. Rae Bronenkant and Olivia Wolf, Bike Path and Trails Maintenance Specialist with Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront, set out with over 1,000 pounds of cement and put the tower together. Follow along with the tim-elapse video below to see the whole process! 

We hope that this new Chimney Swift tower provides nesting and roosting habitat in the future. Be sure to check it out next time you visit Oakledge Park in Burlington! It’s located in the northern wetland restoration area, to the east of the bike path.  

Time-lapse Video of Chimney Swift Tower Installation

Chimney Swifts need your help! We rely upon community scientists like you to notice and report Chimney Swift sightings. It’s fun and easy to submit your observations. Head here to get started! 

To see where there is a tower near you check out this article! 

Rae and Olivia celebrate the creation of the Chimney Swift Tower at Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont.
Rae and Olivia celebrate the creation of the Chimney Swift Tower at Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont. Photo: Rae Bronenkant/Audubon Vermont


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