chimney swift excrement

Earlier this week I wrote about yet another way that scientists can use poop: as an archive. On the campus of a university in Ontario, a chimney collected 48 years of poop from chimney swifts that roosted on its walls. Before humans started building chimneys, chimney swifts got by just fine with cliffs and whatnot, but since the innovation of fire (and chimneys) they’ve decided chimneys are really where it’s at.

Anyway, any time you have poop, you have a record of what an animal ate, and the scientists used this one to look at bugs and pesticides over several decades of the 20th century.

One of my editor’s complaints about the story was how much I used the word “chimney.” I see what he’s talking about. The first paragraph of this blog post uses the word six times, four of them in one sentence. The problem is, there aren’t any good synonyms. He tried “smokestack,” but I think you can really only use that for a chimney on a factory, right?

Photo: Bruce Di Labio

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3 Responses to chimney swift excrement

  1. Lila says:

    Hahaha, I felt sure at the start of the sentence that your editor was taking you to task for overuse of the word “poop,” not “chimney”!

    Unrelated except for the bird connection and words in stories: I’m still proud to have gotten the phrase “great tits” into the Chronicle.

  2. Helen says:

    Oh, man, there is no shortage of synonyms for poop. I bet I could’ve used a different one every time it appeared in the story and had some left over.

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