A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project


September 7, 2001

Austin, TX:  AFL-CIO building:  In a practice session for A Swift Night Out, we monitored the AFL-CIO building in downtown Austin Friday evening.  We arrived at 7:45 pm and the Chimney Swifts were already beginning to gather above the shaft on the northeast corner of the building.  At 7:58, the first swift dropped in as more birds continued to arrive.  By 8:15, the show was over.  When
we compared counts, Georgean had 1,338 swifts and I had 1,314 for an average approximate count of 1,326 Chimney Swifts.

Wilmington, DE:  The roost was in the chimney of an old convent, now an art center for Ursuline Academy for girls, at the corner or Rt. 52 (Pennsylvania Ave.) and Franklin Street. It is alongside an open reservoir.  The weather was clear, no wind, and temp was about 70 deg F.  Counted approximately 225 swifts.  They entered the chimney at approximately 7:45 pm, and dusk was listed as 7:51  in the local newspaper.

Del Rio, TN:  We counted 400+ swifts on 9/8/01 from 8:00 to 8:15 PM.  They were swirling around, mostly counterclockwise, and entering the chimney at Del Rio Elementary School, Del Rio, Cocke
County TN.  Clear skies, temp in the low 70's.  The number is conservative, I wouldn't be surprised if there were twice that many.

Fayetteville, NC:  The site is a single brick chimney located at Ashley School, 810 Trainer Dr., Fayetteville, NC 28304, or about 3 miles from downtown Fayetteville.  The weather was clear, the winds calm, and the temperature 75 degrees.  I arrived at the site at 7:45 pm EDT, and Chimney Swifts were already entering the chimney.  Between then and 8:00, when the last  entered, I counted 198 swifts.

Baltimore City, MD:  #2,416 at Baltimore Armory chimney, Howard and Dolphin St., busy intersection, downtown location, Baltimore City, Md. 75 degrees, clear skies / started gathering 7:15 / started entering 7:25 / finished about 7:55

Gaithersburg, MD:   Our Chimney Swift count was done on the evening of 7 September, Friday.  It is difficult to count whirling Chimney Swifts.  We took several counts for practice, and to note the quick increase in numbers as they came to roost..

7:20 pm - 20
7:30 pm - 30
7:40 pm - 40 - 50
7:45 pm - 80
7:50 pm - 120:  final answer

The birds switched from circling clockwise to counter clockwise four times.  The count was taken at Watkins Mill High School, 10301 Apple Ridge Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20886 (Montgomery County, MD).

The roost is the chimney of the school's physical plant which is two stories.  The chimney opening looks to be 2' x 6'.  The top has a column by each corner 5 - 6 bricks high capped with a slab of concrete.  Temperature 75 degrees F - humid.

The school is on a large campus with mature woods on two sides and playing fields, meadow on two sides.  The swifts feed over all areas.  This was our fourth visit in five nights.  Each time we had the
opportunity to tell people what they were, what the swifts were doing and answer questions.  Not a single person had any idea of what was happening - although a few spent time watching before coming over to talk.

Overland Park, KS: I found your research request on the Kansas Ornithological Society web page. 1 may be a little more detailed than you are looking for but when I report a rare bird the records committee likes as much detail aspossible.

In the past several years I have tried to notice the last time Chimney Swifts, Eastern Kingbirds, Common Nighthawks, and other migrants are last seen around my neighborhood. The following are some observations of the last Chimney Swifts I have personally seen in this area.  Oct. 4, 1998 Oct. 3, 1999 Oct. 8. 2000

Last night (Sept. 7th) a cold front came through with high winds and heavy rain. I was a little worried if this had moved some of the swifts out. Here are my observations for Sept. 8th, 2001.

Santa Fe Elementary School
71st and Lamar Ave.
Overland Park, Kansas 66207

There is a tall boiler chimney used by swifts as a nighttime roost.
Weather: partly cloudy; 78 degrees F. to 74 degrees F.; wind: light;  sunset 7:38 pm

I was on my way to another site in an old neighborhood that I knew swifts had used in the past. When I approached Santa Fe I noticed at similar chimney and a few swifts circling near it so I decided this
might be a good spot to check out. I had never watched this stack before so I didn't know what to expect.

Arrival 7:30    12      Chimney Swifts
        7:45           6         "       "
        7:53         40         "       "
        7:54         60         "       "       1st swift entered
        7:57       100         "       "
        8:00       302         "       "       152 have entered shaft, @ 150 in air circling
8:06    Large stream of swifts began entering shaft. Up until now it had
been 1 to 5 birds at a time.
8:15 Last swift enters shaft.

Estimated total swifts. 575

Also of note were many flocks of starlings heading for roosts and about 20-25 Common Nighthawks eating insects around the school yard and surrounding residential area.

September 8, 2001

Columbia, SC:  The site is a chimney at an old textile mill (Whaley Mill) which has been converted into
student apartments, on the edge of the University of South Carolina campus, near the intersection of Assembly Street and Catawba Street. This is at N 33 degrees 59.322 minutes, W 81 degrees 1.754 minutes, at about 194 feet above sea level.

The weather was good -- clear, about 80 degrees F., winds light and variable, 1 on the Beaufort scale. We estimated about 2700 to 3200 swifts using the site, plus or minus 1000. We used two methods to get this estimate. First we mentally divided the sky into 16 sectors and then tried to estimate the number of birds in 1/16 of a full circle just before the swifts started to enter the chimney. My best estimate using this method was about 200 birds in one sector, or a total of about 3200 swifts. The swifts
started to enter the chimney in earnest at about 8:00 PM EDT, and continued at a steady rate until about 8:15 PM. I estimate that about 3 birds per second were entering the chimney. This gives 3 * 60 * 15 = 2700 swifts, in the same ballpark as the other estimate. I estimate there may have been as few as 2000 swifts or as many as 4000.

Driftwood, TX:   4 wooden nest towers (32" x 32" x 24') on the corners of a water collection system that is also used as a Banding Pavilion during spring migration.  13 swifts -- don't know where all those birds that are flying around here in the morning are roosting.  There was also an Upland Sandpiper circling.

Fairfax, VA:  Information gathered on Friday evening, 19:40, September 7:
Location:   Luther Jackson Middle School, Chimney  Gallows Road, near intersection with Route 50, Arlington Blvd  Fairfax, VA 22031.  (Urban area, traffic congestion and development increasing)   Weather conditions:  Clear, approximately 74 degrees
Swifts:   Approx. 2297 entered chimney
Description of chimney:  Old school heating system; 24"x24", brick

Jonestown, TX:  We counted birds at the Jonestown Cistern Chimney Swift roost tonight. We arrived at 7:30 pm and took some measurements of the old cistern.  It is slightly more than 9' in diameter and 15' tall.  One of the locals told us that she remembers seeing the swifts there as far back as 1959, when she thought they were bats.  At that time there was a wooden ladder that could be climbed for a look inside.  She told us that the poured concrete walls are approximately 6" thick, and that the cistern is completely open on the top.

The swifts began to arrive in numbers about 7:45, and the first bird entered at 7:55.  The last bird entered at 8:15 for a total of 1631 Chimney Swifts. 

The site is located behind the Jones and Carter Real Estate building on HWY. 1431.