Red River College Portage Campus Recognized as Swift Champion

Red River College’s (RRC) Portage la Prairie Campus has a vacancy for some feathered friends.

For efforts in restoring an old chimney to create a hospitable habitat, 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,” said Guy Moffat, Regional Campus Manager for the Portage Campus. “It’s been amazing to see the work our facilities team have 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 to that.”

This Chimney Swift is a small brown bird, often described as a ‘cigar with wings’ that enjoy roosting and breeding in brick chimneys. The species has declined by a large amount in Canada since the 1970s and are now listed under both the Manitoban and Federal Government Species at Risk Acts.

When an MCSI volunteer noticed upgrades being made to the chimney, which sits atop the 100-year-old building, they notified RRC to bring awareness that it had been identified as a designated chimney swift habitat. That awareness resulted in a shift to the original repair plans, which would have closed off the chimney with a metal cap. Now the top part of the brick chimney remains intact, with an opening that allows Chimney Swifts to enter for roosting. The College’s efforts also ensure that toxic gases won’t collect in the nesting area.

“We’re proud to present Red River College with this award. The College is a very deserving recipient of this award thanks to the initiative taken to preserve the chimney and create a suitable habitat for the swifts,” said Tim Poole, Outreach Coordinator for MCSI. “It’s important for more organizations and individuals across the province to follow suite and recognize they can make an impact, either through the restoration of 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 the effort to help the Swifts.

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

RRC will soon be adding signage that identifies the chimney as an endangered species habitat.

The Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative (MCSI) is a volunteer-run arm of Nature Manitoba with a mandate to coordinate all volunteer monitoring, outreach and stewardship for this threatened species in Manitoba.