Early August 2017 newsletter


Hard to believe it is already August. My computer needs to be retired, and I have been having problems with it, so this newsletter is late. The heavy summer heat bears down on us and we could use rain. But gardens are lush with flowers enough for picking bouquets and more than enough cucumbers to make a delicious cold summer soup.

There are 106 birds at the Center. We have plenty of Robins, several Flickers, a tiny Chipping Sparrow and 2 groups of young Chimney Swifts.
 As the season begins to wind down, some of our staff are moving on. Daniella Silver is leaving and will be travelling to Israel. Best of luck and THANK YOU for your hard work and dedication to the birds !

Good Afternoon.  Since the last update on July 19th we have received results on 14 positive animals; an American Crow from Allegan County, an American Crow from Baraga County, a Red-tailed Hawk from Eaton County, an American Woodcock from Houghton County, an American Crow from Kent County, 2 American Crows from Livingston County, a Red-tailed Hawk from Oakland County, an American Crow from Ontonagon County, an American Crow from Ottawa County, and a Common Grackle, 2 American Crows, and a Cooper’s Hawk from Wayne County.  This brings the total number of West Nile Virus positive animals in 2017 to 42 from 26 counties:

Lower Peninsula
Allegan County American Crow
Barry County Wild Turkey
Eaton County American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk
Genesee County Ivory Gull
Ingham County American Crow
Jackson County American Crow
Kalamazoo County American Crow
Kent County American Crow
Lenawee County American Crow
Livingston County Great Horned Owl, American Crow (2)
Mecosta County American Crow
Missaukee County American Crow
Oakland County Common Grackle, Red-tailed Hawk, Mallard
Ottawa County—American Crow
Shiawassee County Blue Jay
Van Buren County American Crow
Washtenaw County Green Heron
Wayne County American Robin (2), Common Grackle, American Crow (2), Coopers Hawk

Upper Peninsula
Alger County American Crow
Baraga Couny Bald Eagle, American Crow (2)
Delta County American Crow, Northern Goshawk
Houghton County American Crow, American Woodcock
Luce County American Crow (2)
Marquette County Common Raven, American Crow
Menominee County American Crow
Ontonagon County American Crow

If you receive calls from the public concerning neurologically abnormal avian species, please try to collect the bird, euthanize it if necessary, and submit it to the Lab as soon as possible for examination and testing.  Depending on the species and the clinical signs observed, we may test the bird for Avian Influenza as well.  If we confirm West Nile Virus in a species in a county, we may not test additional birds from the same species for West Nile Virus but we will still necropsy the bird if submitted for examination.

If you receive a report of a die-off of bats, please collect 3-6 specimens and we will test them for Rabies and West Nile Virus and perform a necropsy.  If you receive a report of other neurologically abnormal mammalian species, please try to collect it, euthanize it if necessary (please do not damage the brain), and submit it to us as soon as possible.  Depending on the species, we will test it for a variety of diseases (Rabies, Canine Distemper, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, etc.).  There are chapters in our Wildlife Disease Manual (www.michigan.gov/wdm) on all of these diseases if you want to read more about them.

Thank you for your assistance with the collection of specimens for testing.  I will keep you updated on West Nile Virus positive animals that we examine and if you have any questions, call me or send me an email.  Tom

Thomas M. Cooley
Wildlife Biologist/Pathologist
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Disease Lab
4125 Beaumont Rd.
Lansing, MI  48910

Chimney Swift
Young Chimney Swifts clinging to their mesh enclosure at the Bird Center
  • Chimney Swift
 IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened
A bird best identified by silhouette, the smudge-gray Chimney Swift nimbly maneuvers over rooftops, fields, and rivers to catch insects. Its tiny body, curving wings, and stiff, shallow wingbeats give it a flight style as distinctive as its fluid, chattering call. This enigmatic little bird spends almost its entire life airborne. When it lands, it can’t perch-it clings to vertical walls inside chimneys or in hollow trees or caves. This species has suffered sharp declines as chimneys fall into disuse across the continent.
Chimney Swifts eat airborne insects. Feeding on the wing, they capture flies, bugs, bees, wasps, ants, mayflies, beetles, fleas, and other insects. They grab large insects with their bills; small ones go right down the throat. Chimney Swifts feed over urban and residential neighborhoods, fields, grasslands, orchards, forests, and marshes. They can also pick insects from branch tips and “helicopter” down through the foliage to flush out prey. Normally diurnal foragers, they sometimes hunt for insects at night around streetlights or lit windows. They have been reported taking berries from elderberry bushes.
Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3-5 eggs
Number of Broods
1-2 broods
Incubation Period
16-21 days
Nestling Period
14-19 days
Egg Description
Pure white.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless and naked.
Nest Description
The nest is a half-saucer of loosely woven twigs, stuck together and cemented to the chimney wall with the bird’s glue-like saliva. Both parents independently contribute to the nest: they break off small twigs with their feet while flying through branches, then return to the nest site with the twigs in their bills. The completed nest measures 2-3 inches from front to back, 4 inches wide, and 1 inch deep.

Although they originally nested in natural sites such as caves and hollow trees of old-growth forests, Chimney Swifts now nest primarily in chimneys and other artificial sites with vertical surfaces and low light (including air vents, old wells, abandoned cisterns, outhouses, boathouses, garages, silos, barns, lighthouses, and firewood sheds). Both members of a breeding pair may fly toward several potential nest locations, then cling side by side at one particular site, with one member of the pair giving a rhythmic chipping call.
BehaviorChimney Swifts spend their lives airborne, except when they are roosting or on the nest. They perform aerial courtship displays within 2 weeks of arriving on their North American breeding grounds, forming monogamous pairs for the season.  After the young fledge, small groups of parents and young from several chimneys join larger staging flocks in bigger chimneys nearby. At the end of summer they gather into large groups to migrate to South America. During migration, as many as 10,000 swifts may circle in a tornado-like flock at dusk and funnel into a roosting chimney to spend the night. The lives of these widespread urban birds are surprisingly unstudied, because of their inaccessible nesting and roosting sites and their aerial lifestyle.
ConservationChimney Swifts have been in a long-term, rangewide decline of about 2.5% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 72%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 7.8 million, with 99% breeding in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The 2014 State of the Birds Report listed the species as a Common Bird in Steep Decline.
 These birds probably became much more numerous with European settlement and the building of millions of chimneys. But traditional brick chimneys are now deteriorating and modern chimneys tend to be unsuitable for nest sites. Adding to the problem, some homeowners now cap their unused chimneys. Chimney cleaning during the nesting season can inadvertently destroy nests and kill swifts. Logging of old-growth forests can reduce the availability of natural nest sites. To prevent further decline, people may need to preserve existing chimneys or create new structures specifically for swift nesting; designs can be downloaded from the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
Migration    Long-distance migrant. Chimney Swifts breed in urban and suburban habitats across the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada. They spend the winter in the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil, Chimney Swifts migrate to South America each winter flying across the Gulf of Mexico or skirting it along the Texas coast (a route they’re more likely to take in spring than fall). Many swifts use one of three distinct flyways: the Atlantic coast, the east side of the Appalachians, and the Mississippi River. They fly high in the sky during the day and roost in chimneys at night.
Backyard Tips
Chimney Swifts may take up residence in your brick chimney if you leave the chimney cap off. It’s a good idea to keep the damper closed during summer and to schedule chimney cleanings either before or after the breeding season. If you don’t have a chimney, you can build a swift nesting tower with plans from the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
 The “flying cigar” silhouette of the Chimney Swift is a common sight all summer in the skies over eastern cities and towns. Lakes and rivers are especially good places to look for swifts.
You can watch the swifts settle in for the night : Go to Detroit Audubon.com for information about the The Swift Sanctuary to watch the daily spectacular show as up to 50,000 Chimney Swifts swirl around and around like a tornado before the avian funnel cloud swirls right down into this historic winery. A wooded area behind the historic winery abuts the Rouge River, so there may be some migrants lurking there as well. As far as we know this is THE largest roost of Chimney Swifts in North America! . Bring a lawn chair to sit and watch this incredible show. The biggest congregation of swifts in this chimney usually happens in the fall.  MID AUGUST TO END OF OCTOBER 6-9 PM
As the late summer afternoon shadows lengthen I watch a group of about 15 chimney swifts. First I hear their high chattering calls, then I watch them circling in the sky around and around until it’s dark. I don’t know where they spend the night or how far away their roost is.
Chipping Sparrow                       
 Have a splendid weekend, Perhaps a moonlight swim?