A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project


Golden Valley and Brainerd, MN

My wife and I did the Minnesota Chimney Swift tonight. We were at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 145 Jersey Ave. So., Golden Valley, Minnesota.  66 swifts seen entering the stack from 8:45 to 9:20.

Very fun to watch. We enjoyed it and will continue to do some counting. I became interested in swifts a few weeks ago when I rescued one on the ground. Took him to WRC, though I later learned he didn't make it. But what he did do is spark an interest in this marvelous little bird.

My in-laws in Brainerd also did the sit and asked me to turn in the count for them. They said they saw 61 Swifts tonight dive into the chimney at Laestadian Church in Brainerd MN. Address is 1501 South 8th Street. They watched from 8:45 to 9:30.

Scott Ransom

Conway, SC

tonite 250+/- CHSW are roosting in the chimney here in the confines. i think this is the earliest time of year i've seen such a group here.

seems like just a cpl days ago i was watching this year's offspring testing their wings. guess summer's done...

Gary Phillips

Houston, TX

I have been actively involved in Houston Audubon's chimney swift initiative in Houston for the past several years, counting at sites and hosting Swift Night Out events. This past spring, with the help of a wonderful team of dedicated volunteers, I began monitoring a roosting site in downtown Houston. We started our weekly count on April 10 and up until recently, would observe the birds flying around and then counted them as they entered the stack (what I thought was 'typical' swift behavior). Towards the end of July, the behavior of the birds deviated drastically from what we were used to observing. Instead of birds flying into the stack and remaining inside, the birds would fly in and back out, making it difficult to get an accurate count of the birds. Last night, we arrived to the stack at 7:56pm and observed at least 100 birds billowing out of the stack, a behavior I previously thought was limited to their morning emergence.
Here's the data we collected last evening:
Time # Birds Flying In # Birds Flying Out
8:02pm-8:12pm 40 10
8:12pm-8:22pm 96 37
8:22pm-8:32pm 114 18
8:32pm-8:42pm 6
Have you witnessed the birds behaving this way before? Could the birds be using the tower to rest during the day and we're observing them coming out for their last feeding before bed? I was under the impression that the birds were actively flying all day and only entering their roosting sites before resting for the evening. We also postulated that there may have been a predator or disturbance in the stack, causing the birds to be nervous and afraid to settle in for the evening. Any insight you could provide as to why the birds would be acting this way or an explanation for our observations would be most appreciated.
Thanks so much,
Vicki Vroble (and her confused chimney swift counting team)

We have discovered in our research that late in the season (about now) Chimney Swifts do not always leave the roost early. In fact, they may stay in the roost until well after noon resting and conserving body fat for the upcoming migration. We have also observed swifts sometimes remaining in the roost until close to sunset when they flush out for a last meal and water before returning for the night.
When birds come out in large numbers after they have gone in for the evening, it does trend to indicate that there is a predator or something else wrong with the roost that makes it unsafe for them.
Thanks for your observations. We hope this information helps a bit.

Kenduskeag, ME

Since 1987 we've kept one of the chimneys on our 1835 house for the chimney swifts. They are among our favorite birds.
The swifts are almost constant companions all summer, chattering overhead much of each day. Early in August, one afternoon, we counted 19 swifts overhead, our high count for the summer.
I began preparing for tonight's count on Tues., Aug. 7. I watched 14 swifts go down our chimney -- an unusually high number. August 7 was the last day of their constant chattering on the wing.
August 8 -- we were aware of no chattering and no swifts all day.
August 9 -- again, no birds and no chattering during the day. In the evening, one dove down the chimney, then a flock of 7 arrived and suddenly began chattering as they circled. Then, over the next five minutes they flitted down the chimney. Total of 8
Friday, August 10 -- first night of the official count -- No birds, no chattering during the day. At 7:50 PM, one bird came along and dove down the chimney. Then one by one and silently, 7 others came and went down the chimney. Total 8.
Questions: Are these 8 the offspring of the 2 pair we think nested in the chimney this year?
Did the adult birds -- 2 pair of parents and two others -- who stayed on August 7, go south on the 8th, leaving the children to come later?
And another question -- Is August 10 too late to hold the count in these parts? We've observed in the past that the swifts become silent and seem to disappear around the end of the first week of August. This is the first time I've begun to count earlier than Aug. 10.

Thanks for your report. The birds likely include the parents, their young and possibly young from a previous season or young from a near by nest site. The family does tend to stay together the first year and migrate together as far as we know.
It may be that the swifts do leave you area earlier than the official count dates. We always record every count that is sent to us, so feel free to count earlier if you wish. This year we are including July counts on our map.

Austin, TX

Friday the 10th of August at Zilker Elementary I counted 191 swifts coming into roost. About a dozen of those entered before 8:30, the first almost an hour before. However, the majority came in just after 8:30 and the last one I counted was about 8:48.

Dawn Dickson

Murray, KY

August 10, 2012
15 swifts
7:45Pm-8:15PM CST
Murray, Ky. 42071
Clear, 80F, no wind
Old chimney stack on old school bldg. presently used as the Murray Board of Education Office

Interestingly, four evenings before I counted 40 swifts entering the chimney. I don't know why there was such a difference?

Melissa Easley

Stellarton, NS

I conducted a swiftwatch at the Temperance St. school chimney in New Glasgow NS, Canada on Aug 10, 2012. I arrived at 20:30. It was 24C, calm and 40% overcast. First swifts entered at 8:35 and last at 8:43. A total of 14 swifts were counted. Highest count for the year was recorded June 7 when 605 were counted. Numbers declined after that to June 30 when 27 were counted. Numbers slowly increased till July 30 when 100 were counted. The numbers have been declined since that date.

Ken McKenna

Bayside, TX

August 10, 2012 evening count:
(warm 80's and some wind about 15 MPH), clear sky
Total = 10 birds.