August 13, 2009
Swift Success for Giant Nest Boxes
Gerry Thompson with Vaux's Swift Box
(WEST KOOTENAY) Huge nest boxes installed in various locations in the West Kootenay by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) are already showing signs of success. Monitoring of the boxes during early August revealed that one box – in the Smallwood Creek area between Nelson and Castlegar – is being used by a family of Vaux’s swifts. Given the early signs of success there are high hopes for the remaining 26 boxes.
The chimney-like bird houses were built by Gerry Thompson, FWCP volunteer public representative. Although the Vaux’s swift is a relatively small bird each box stands over 3.6m (12 feet) in height and required more than 50 linear board feet of cedar to construct. While it looks like a French word, the name comes from an English ornithologist, William Vaux, and is pronounced “vawks.”
“Typically when you install new nest boxes for a species, they remain unused for the first few seasons,” says FWCP wildlife biologist Irene Manley who is leading the project. “So we were thrilled when we discovered Vaux’s swifts have already taken up residence in one of them.”
This particular swift is a small cigar-shaped bird that eats insects, and feeds entirely in flight. The southern portion of the Columbia Basin provides critical habitat for them as they prefer Interior Cedar Hemlock; more than half of their global breeding sites occur in B.C.
"The pair of adults that took up residence in our nest box successfully raised between five and seven fledglings," added Manley. "While we were observing, every five minutes or so one of the adults returned loaded with insects for the young and the cacophony of noise from the box was pretty exciting to hear."
The Vaux's swift is facing a number of threats to its roosting and nesting sites which, historically, 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 brick chimneys. As more brick chimneys are converted to steel or aluminum, even this manmade habitat is in decline.
"It really is very satisfying to get some early success with these boxes and it makes the effort of putting them together and installing them all the more rewarding," says Wynndel resident Thompson. He 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 construction of BC Hydro dams.
Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program
103-333 Victoria St. Nelson, BC V1L 4K3 Canada
Tel (250) 352-6874 Fax (250) 352-6178