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May 30, 2008
Now, THAT’S a Birdhouse!

Gerry Thompson, who is a volunteer public representative on the FWCP Steering Committee, made these tall chimney-like birdhouses for Vaux's Swifts, a small bird with tall housing needs.

(WEST KOOTENAY) At some time in your life you may have built a bird house, but chances are it looked nothing like the high-rise residences that Gerry Thompson, volunteer Public Representative with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, has recently constructed. Each bird box stands over 3.6m (12 feet) in height. That’s a big bird house for a bird that can fit into the palm of your hand. The bird is question is the Vaux’s swift, a small cigar-shaped bird that eats insects, and feeds entirely on the wing. The southern portion of the Columbia Basin provides critical habitat for the Vaux’s swift as they prefer Interior Cedar Hemlock; more than half of their global breeding sites occur in B.C. While the bird is not listed as vulnerable it is facing a number of threats to its roosting and nesting sites. Historically these have consisted of hollow trees, often found in old growth forests. With the creation of the regional reservoirs and changes in forestry practices, however, such habitat has become more limited. In fact the majority of recorded nest sites are now in man-made chimneys. The Vaux’s swift can be found in unused industrial or residential chimneys. As more brick chimneys are converted to steel or aluminum, even this manmade habitat is in decline. So the FWCP is trying to help matters by installing custom-made Vaux’s swift “chimneys.” Each bird “chimney” will provide a single nest site for a breeding pair of swifts, or migratory roosts for dozens of swifts. “Every nest box took over 50 linear board feed of cedar to make and it probably took me two weeks of work to complete the 27 boxes,” says Thompson, a Creston Valley resident. “Although the design was straightforward enough, what really took time and patience was the scoring of each panel every few centimetres for the entire length of the box.” The scoring helps the fledgling Vaux’s swifts clamber up and down the inside of the box. Thompson, who has been building nest boxes as a hobby to help the birdlife in the Creston Valley for over 10 years, donated his time and equipment for the project while the FWCP paid for the materials. The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program works on behalf of its program partners, BC Hydro, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the constructions of BC Hydro dams. “Installing the boxes will be the next challenge given the weight of each unit,” added Thompson. Each one will be placed on bare, straight tree trunks at least 10 metres off the ground. They will be distributed in various locations in the West Kootenay including the Duncan, Kootenay Lake, Arrow Lakes Reservoir, Pend d’Oreille and the Creston Valley

Angus Glass
Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program
103-333 Victoria St. Nelson, BC V1L 4K3 Canada
Tel (250) 352-6874 Fax (250) 352-6178

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