- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - A newly erected tower in Bloomington will begin doubling next spring as a roosting spot for hundreds of chimney swifts.

The 12-foot-tall tower paid for by Indiana University was erected Thursday outside Bloomington’s WonderLab science museum. The structure will provide roosting space for about 250 of the small, grayish birds.

“This is like the penthouse of birdhouses,” said Jessica Hite, an Indiana University Ph.D. student who created the tower project. The base is made of limestone, and the outside has materials such as barn wood and slate shingles.

The tower’s surface will be decorated with “swift-specific” artwork next spring. That’s when the chimney swifts will return to the area during their annual migration from South America.

Chimney swifts are unable to perch and can only cling to vertical surfaces. They’re often mistaken for bats, and their population has been in decline. They are designated as “near threatened” in the U.S. by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to the loss of hollow trees that long served as their natural roosts.

Hite said another likely reason for the bird’s decline has to do with people capping their chimneys, and newer chimneys have slipperier insides that don’t allow for nesting. People should feel comfortable letting the birds use their chimneys, she told the (Bloomington) Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1N9tErS ).

Cameras on the tower will send images viewable at the WonderLab museum. Hite said she hopes the project work will provide data to a national database.

The new tower is one of five planned for downtown Bloomington to help the species. The project is being supported by a grant launched last year by the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.

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