Ohio Wesleyan University is adding a donor-funded chimney swift tower to its residential campus, helping to address the growing lack of nesting space for the beneficial mosquito-eating birds.
The 14-foot brick tower is being built on the northeast side of Stuyvesant Hall and is scheduled to be completed this fall.
“The tower will serve as a notable example of theory-into-practice and the OWU Connection,” said John Krygier, Ph.D., director of Environmental Studies. “Students will be able to use it to collect and analyze data related to chimney swift roosting, migration, and breeding biology.”
Dustin Reichard, Ph.D., OWU’s ornithologist, plans to use the tower with students in his zoology and biology courses. He said the birds will find and settle into the tower with no special action needed to attract them.
“Historically, chimney swifts inhabited many open chimneys across their native range,” said Reichard, assistant professor of Biological Sciences. “Over time people began capping their chimneys or using other methods that prevented the swifts from accessing them. As the number of available chimneys dwindled, the remaining chimneys received an influx of swifts.
“Basically, we are creating a habitat that has become a rare resource for these birds,” Reichard said. “Hundreds of swifts can inhabit a single chimney, and watching them enter at dusk is an incredible spectacle. The entire flock circles the chimney in large spirals before diving in for the night.”
The tower is composed of concrete blocks with a brick exterior and will include ceramic tile embellishments to be created by OWU Fine Arts professor Kristina Bogdanov, M.F.A, and her students. The tiles, created from recycled clay and dyes, will feature historical OWU photographs as well as the leaves of local, native trees and plants, common birds and animals, insects, bees, and other natural features of the campus area.
The tower is being funded with a lead gift from 1973 OWU alumnus Richard M. Tuttle, now deceased, who spent 28 years teaching science in Big Walnut Local Schools and even more time supporting the presence of rare and beneficial birds in Ohio in surrounding states. Also contributing are OWU alumni couple Susan Howe, Class of 1981, and William “Prent” Howe, Class of 1980, of Yulee, Florida, who also enjoy birding and value conservation efforts.
The tower is being constructed by John Kuhn and Adobe Construction LLC. Work began in late July and is expected to conclude this month, said Kuhn, who had Tuttle as his seventh-grade science teacher.
In addition to Tuttle and the three Ohio Wesleyan professors, planning for the Chimney Swift tower was a collaborative effort that also included OWU graduates Caitlyn Buzza, Class of 2012; Alex Johnson, Class of 2016; and Ashley Tims, Class of 2017, who helped to design the ceramic tiles.
Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s departments of Biological Sciences at www.owu.edu/biologicalsciences, Environment and Sustainability at www.owu.edu/environment, and Fine Arts at www.owu.edu/finearts. Learn more about the OWU Connection, the university’s signature student experience, at www.owu.edu/connection, and more about making a gift to the university at www.owu.edu/give.