A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project


September 10, 2001

Athens, GA:  We counted Swifts at a long-established roost in Athens, GA.  We are both Ornithology research technicians at the University of Georgia.  We found it difficult to count such a large number of Swifts with much accuracy, even after a practice night the evening before the reported count.  Problems included failing light, the tight circular movement of birds, and a limited view of the roost entrance; the most difficult problem, though, was the 'faking' behavior of the birds at the roost entrance.  The large number of Swifts flew continually and repeatedly past the entrance, many birds often slowing and approaching the entrance as if entering, then suddenly flying past.  In low light, it was difficult to tell which birds actually entered.  Still, counting them as they flew into the roost seemed to be the best way of estimating the number of birds.  Rough guesses of the flock's size flying over the roost corroborated our final count.  Because of their disparity, we include two counts, made simultaneously by two observers.

Count A: 488 / Count B: 780 Average: 634

Date: September 10, 2001
Time: 7:50 to 8:30 P.M.
Location: 199 Prince Ave. Athens, GA  30601
Weather: Calm, Some clouds but mostly clear

Site description:  The roost itself is a no-longer-used brick chimney at the back wall of a two-story commercial building (formerly part of a Coke shipping plant, now a small business).  It is rises about ten feet above the flat roof and is about four feet wide and two feet thick.  The available roost space probably extends well below the roof level.  The building is on a busy street very near downtown Athens, but the chimney at the back of the building is on an infrequently used, small street with a large yard and parking lot on the opposite side.  Several large Water Oaks in the yard branch out near the chimney.  the surrounding neighborhood includes the downtown area (with few trees) and a large, historic residential district (with a high density of very large trees, for an urban area).

I hope this information is helpful.  Thanks for a fun evening!