Students chirping over new tower for small birds

Students chirping over new tower for small birds

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WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Students no longer will have to worry about where small birds that nested in the chimney of an old school slated for demolition will live next.

Workers last week installed a 14-foot tall, chimney-like structure — decorated with students' names and outlines of their hands — near the former Orange Elementary School, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier ( reported.

Fifth grade students who researched the bird, called chimney swifts, were among those who gathered to watch the tower be installed. They created a PowerPoint presentation they plan to show other students at school.

"They actually hang out in more than just chimneys," Emma Brainard said. "They hang out in abandoned buildings and hollowed out trees."

The birds are between two and five inches in length and eat insects. Hundreds of them flock to the school to roost every year. Bird watchers often gather at the old school during nights in September and October to see them fly in and out of the chimney.

The birds aren't facing a dramatic decrease in its population, but they could see a decline as the number of homes with chimneys wane, said Tom Schilke, president of the Prairie Rapids Audubon Club. Schilke had alerted teacher Carol Boyce to the birds in the building and encouraged her to seek grants to build a new home for them.

Boyce applied for grants and received $500 from the Iowa Ornithologist Union and $300 from Prairie Rapids Audubon Club to cover the costs of building the structure. She also is seeking more grant funds to build another tower near the former school.

She said she wants students to continue having opportunities to learn about the environment by observing the natural world.


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier,

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