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Groundbreaking held for chimney swift roost tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation

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Contact: emelia.cowans@naturalsciences.org; 919.707.9837

Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation awards $25,000 to help build the long-awaited chimney swift roost tower at Prairie Ridge

RALEIGH—This September, 5,000 chimney swifts are expected to call the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife and Learning their new home roost thanks to generous support from Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation. A groundbreaking ceremony was held today at Prairie Ridge to acknowledge the partnerships and support that the Museum received in this collaborative project to help build the 30-foot tall tower that will be located on the grounds at Prairie Ridge. Visitors can watch the birds come to roost while sitting in a patio garden with benches. Interpretive signage will accompany the tower. Chimney swifts are small brown birds that fly non-stop, from April through October, dawn until dusk, high above the city until they settle for the night in someone’s chimney, one pair at a time. However, in August, they gather in flocks by the thousands as they prepare to migrate, then they switch their roosts to large, industrial-sized chimneys. Our roost tower will serve that purpose. Watching these birds come to roost can be quite a spectacle. There will also be a webcam installed inside the tower so that those who can’t make it out to Prairie Ridge can watch the birds streamed live from our website.

The Carolina Bird Club, the Center for Human-Earth Restoration, Wake Audubon Society, N.C. Audubon Society, N.C. National Guard, Wake Communities in Schools and the estate of Vicki Weiss have all been integral in helping this dream that began in 1998 become a reality. Frank Harmon Architect graciously donated design services pro bono and Clancy and Theys, who also built the Museum’s Nature Research Center, donated a portion of their construction services. Custom Brick donated the bricks for the tower and supplied bricks for the “Buy a Brick for Swifts” campaign. More than 100 inscribed bricks sponsored by local residents will line the patio garden.

Under beautiful sunny skies, John Connors and former Director of Education/Director at Prairie Ridge Mary Ann Brittain cut a bright red ribbon to open the site. Immediately after, Jason Cryan, Deputy Museum Director for Research and Collections, John Connors, Wake Audubon Society, Project Manager and Overseer of Installation, John Gerwin, Museum Research Curator of Ornithology, Heather Starck Hahn, Executive Director/Vice President, Audubon North Carolina/Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation, architect Frank Harmon, Scott Cutler of Clancy and Theys, and Grant Fisher of Custom Brick and Supply turned the soil where the tower will be erected. A bird walk followed the ceremony.

With its wetlands, restored prairie, forests and bottomlands, Prairie Ridge provides our community with experiential, hands-on learning opportunities in nature. From programs about diverse wildlife habitats and sustainable living to environmental programs in the outdoor classroom, to the Nature Play Space, the chimney swift roost tower makes a perfect and welcome addition to an already green safe haven right here in the heart of the capital city.

The Museum plans to launch several educational and research programs about chimney swifts. One such hands-on program will involve 8th graders at Carnage Middle School, one of the few Wake County Schools that still harbors swifts in its chimney. For more information about the chimney swift roost tower, contact Emelia Cowans at 919.707.9837 or via email at emelia.cowans@naturalsciences.org.


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St. and 121 W. Jones St.) in downtown Raleigh, is the state's most visited museum. It is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world, drawing them into the intriguing fields of study that are critical to the future of North Carolina. Hours: Mon.- Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Thu. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun., noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the Web at www.naturalsciences.org. Emlyn Koster, PhD, Director; John E. Skvarla III, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Pat McCrory, Governor.

Publish Date: 
Monday, April 21, 2014