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Know the West

Sleuthing swifts in Indiana


I couldn't help but smile while reading about Larry Schwitters' pursuit of Vaux's swifts ("Swift sleuth," HCN, 7/23/2012). One of our favorite restaurants near downtown Indianapolis is the Rooftop Restaurant at Fountain Square, atop an old five-story brick building with a magnificent view of the downtown skyline and Midwestern sunsets. In the back of the restaurant, no more than 50 feet off the deck, is a very old brick chimney that is home to what we call chimney swifts.

Each day, near sunset, the birds gather and almost seem to create a vortex as they circle the chimney. They have the same pattern every night — a dive-bomb toward the chimney with a very close flyby, circle around, repeat, then finally a rocket into their nesting place. I still have no idea how they slow down inside the chimney to avoid smashing themselves into the brick. The scene is so popular, the restaurant places a one-page tutorial at each table.

So Larry, if you ever get to Indy, give us a call. The Rooftop offers a great view, good food, adult beverages, and your beloved swifts.

Frank Hanou 
Indianapolis, Indiana