A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project



I have attached a report of our summer work on roosting chimneys in Maine. There are two parts. One summarizes the observations of swifts at the chimney in the new Harriet Beecher Elementary School in Brunswick. The other lists counts of swifts at various Maine locations from their first appearance in early May to the end of the major migration in the third week in August.

Many thanks to all for your interest in preserving the habitats of Chimney Swifts. Their original roosting and nesting places have disappeared and their unique anatomy has adapted well to new urban habitats. Your continued interest and support in preserving at least some of a rapidly disappearing technology is appreciated. The old chimneys still have an important use in creating a more vibrant urban environment.

Ted Allen

Chimney Swifts in Maine:  2010 Roosting Chimneys

We have come to the end of a busy summer and have discovered several previously unknown roosting chimneys.  As a result we know more about swift behavior, but in knowing more we are asking many new questions.  One of them is: "Why didn't the swifts immediately accept the chimney at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School?"  We provided a chimney within the specifications which we know they accept for roosting.  On May 5, however, 23 swifts entered the chimney and within five minutes all 23 exited.  During the May migration, groups occasionally flew by but did not enter.  Similarly, the southward migration in August saw a few in the neighborhood of the construction site but none flying near the chimney.

It is known that occasionally it takes time for swifts to occupy a chimney built close to their old one.  Most authorities tell us that letting the swifts decide is better than making changes prematurely.  We continue discussions of what might be done and will come to some kind of determination before school construction is completed.

There is a lot we don't know about Chimney Swift decision-making.  The attached summary records observations of several people throughout the summer.  Notice that the major roost for migrating swifts in the state is at the Maine Medical Building.  This unused chimney had at least 830 roosting there on May 20-21.  Notice also the entries for Bru1 and Bru2 from July 17 to August 26.  Bru1 is an extremely tall and wide chimney while Bru2 is short and narrow.  Why did the August migration stream not occupy the larger chimney? 
 In addition to roosting chimneys, we also know more about nesting chimneys.  On a trip to Orono to investigate a former a major roost in the Helen Hunt Health Center (formerly Helen Hunt High School) we found that the chimney is now capped.  Many smaller chimneys in Orono are also capped but two swifts were seen entering the Orono Historical Museum (formerly a church) chimney and more than a dozen were seen feeding.  Orono is like many riverside towns in Maine which have significant populations of swifts.  This year's observations include Gardiner, Augusta, Camden, and Wiscasset.  There are doubtless many others.  The rate of capping small chimneys throughout the state appears to be increasing and the removal of unused roosting chimneys in the wake of new construction has dire consequences for migrants on their way to nesting sites further north.  The species is endangered in Canada,
Many people have contributed to this project.  In particular we would like to thank Dave and Janice Plummer whose observations at Maine Medical constitute the origin of our statewide work.  Others have spent evenings counting: Tom and Ann Baiocchi, Joe and Christa Baiocchi,  Alan and Linda Seamans, Anna Hunt, Jackie Sartoris, and Sarah Wolpow.  Information about roost locations was provided by Mike Doucette, Sandy Kauffman, Doug Suitor,  Eric Hynes, Andrew Gilbert, Charlotte Agel, Kristen Lindquist and Chris Corio.  Finally thanks to Steve Walker for his time observing and for his lead in the development and funding of the project and to Alan Kuniholm at PDT Architects for shepherding us through the construction details and his active interest in our work.

Maine Roosting Chimneys

Brunswick High School
May 4
May 5 5
May 6
May 8 30
May10 15
May 11 140
May 13 90
May 15 47
May 16 25
May 17 34
May 18
May 20 100
May 25 125
May 26 160
May 29 400
May 30 330
June 3 150
June 4 90
June 6 75
June 8 90
June 15 55
June 22
June 24 45
June 28
June 29
June 30
July 10 45
July 23 50
July 27 55

August 1 100
August 4  Chimney demolished in the morning
75 birds present; roosting unknown
August 5 25 ? swifts roost on standing wall
August 7 walls no longer standing, no swifts

HBS  Brunswick, Harriet Beecher Stowe Schl
LF Lisbon Falls, Maine Street Clothier
MM Maine Medical
Gray New town hall, old Pennell Institute
AUB Auburn near Fabric Warehouse on Rt 4
Bru1 Tall Chimney, Maine Street, Brunswick
Bru2 Short (c25 ft) Chimney near Bru1

Selected Locations

May 4 HBS 6 flying around chimney
May 5 HBS 23 enter and then exit chimney
May 6 HBS 50 flying in area
May 9 MM 30 enter chimney
May 10 MM 1 enters
May 11 LF 300

May 16 LF 100
May 17 MM many more than 250
May 18 MM more than 200
May 20 MM 830
May 20 HBS 30 swifts circling area in daytime
May 25 LF 75

May 31 HBS Chittering heard in evening
June 1 LF 120
June 2 Gray 75

June 4 Gray 70
June 7 Gray 60
June 9 LF 76
June 11 Gray 35
June 14 WMS Many swifts seen in the daytime entering and exiting
June 22 LF 60
June 28 Gray 33
June 28 MM 30 enter at about 5pm
June 29 MM 30
June 30 AUB 60
July 17 Bru1 33
July 18 Bru1 26
July 19 LF 35
July 27 Bru1 62
July 30 Bru1 28
July 31 MM 0
Aug 6 AUB 39
Aug 7 LF 0
Aug 8 Bru2 85
Gray 20
Aug 11 Bru2 75
Aug 12 Bru2 12
Aug 15 Bru2 20
Aug 16 Bru2 30
LF 0
Aug 17 Bru2 40
Aug 18 Bru2 22
Aug 19 Bru2 12
Aug 26 Bru2 0
Only single birds seen in Brunswick after this date

September 1, 2010

Swifts did not enter the roost in Maine Medical (MM Portland) after July 30 and in Lisbon Falls (LF) after August 7. In both places up to a dozen or more flew in the neighborhood (and presumably roosted there somewhere) for at least a week.
Counts from Auburn (AUB) and Gray continued for two weeks. Bru2 lasted until August 26 and was a small house chimney (20 feet tall and 1.5 feet interior width) in Brunswick. It is the smallest roost I've seen in Maine and was the site where 6 swifts from a rehab center were released on August 16.

Ted Allen

Munson, OH

Chimney Swift count# of birds: 280
Time: 7:20-8:06 EDT
Date: 9-10-10
Location: Munson Twp., Geauga County, Ohio
Broad description: Elementary school chimney
Weather Conditions: Clear, 55 degrees F

Karen Morgan

Charlotte, NC

* Number of swifts counted: 750+
* Time: 1945 - 2005
* Date: 9/10/10
* Location: Charlotte, NC / intersection of Euclid Avenue and East Park Avenue
* Description of the site: School
* Weather conditions: Partly cloudy, 77F light breeze

Tom Sanders

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