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Portage Campus recognized as chimney swift champion

May 30, 2018

Red River College’s Portage Campus has a vacancy for some feathered friends.

For its efforts in restoring an old chimney to create a hospitable habitat for birds, RRC has been presented with the Swift Champion award from the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative (MCSI). Over the summer of 2017, two swifts were spotted using the chimney a number of times, indicating the restoration was a success.

“We’re honoured to accept the Swift Champion award and to continue our role in protecting the chimney swifts,” says Guy Moffat, Portage Campus Manager. “It’s been amazing to see the work our facilities team has put in to restoring the chimney, and to be able to witness the swifts flying in and out of their summer home. Part of RRC’s Strategic Plan includes fostering sustainable growth – not just for the College, but for the entire province. This is just one way we contribute.”

The chimney swift is a small brown bird, often described as a “cigar with wings,” that enjoys roosting and breeding in brick chimneys. The species’ population has declined significantly in Canada since the 1970s and is now listed on both the provincial and federal Species at Risk registries.

When a volunteer from MCSI noticed upgrades being made to the Portage Campus chimney in 2016, they let the College know it had been identified as a designated chimney swift habitat.

That awareness resulted in changes to the original repair plans, which would have closed off the chimney with a metal cap. Now the top of the brick chimney remains intact, with an opening that allows swifts to enter and roost. The College’s efforts also ensure toxic gases won’t collect in the nesting area.

“The College is a very deserving recipient of this award, thanks to the efforts taken to preserve the chimney and create a suitable habitat for the swifts,” says Tim Poole, Outreach Coordinator for MCSI. “It’s important for more organizations and individuals across the province to follow suit and recognize they can make an impact, either through the restoration of an existing habitat, the building of new habitats, or simply growing awareness.”

The College joins sites like the Merchant Hotel (Selkirk), The Parish Church (St. Jean-Baptiste), St. Avila School, Good News Fellowship Church and St. Ann’s Catholic Church (Winnipeg) in their efforts to help the swifts.

The MSCI has also erected swift towers in Starbuck, St. Adolphe, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg — including one in the Assiniboine Park Zoo — and has partnered with volunteers across the province in their monitoring and conservation efforts.

RRC will soon add campus signage that identifies the chimney as an endangered species habitat.