A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project


August 18, 2003

Roseburg, OR:  Alternate roost for Vaux's swifts found 1 block east of pottery shed chimney in private home at 635 Fairhaven 97470 . 270 swifts entered. The family reports that they nest in the spring and that for the past three years it has been a fall roost. I will watch to see if they join the main roost or whether we have several smaller congregations in the area.

August 15 - 21

Saint Joseph, MO:  The site of my observations was Huffman Memorial Methodist Church on the corner of 28th and Renick, Saint Joseph, MO. The church has a very tall chimney, about 70 feet and probably about 3 feet X 3 feet square. I observed the swifts over several consecutive days.

Note: Where the # of swifts is preceded with an * this indicates an actual count, on the first two dates the counts were estimates.

These first observations are of swifts coming to the site in the evening to roost.

Date # of swifts 1st swift entered Last swift entered Lapsed time
August 15, 2003 @400 8:25 PM 8:45 PM 20 min.
August 16, 2003 @250 8:01 PM 8:39 PM 38 min.
August 17, 2003 * 220 8:00 PM 8:34 PM 34 min.
August 18, 2003 * 292 7:39 PM 8:30 PM 51 min.
August 19, 2003 * 302 7:46 PM 8:27 PM 41 min.

The observations below are of swifts leaving the roost chimney in the morning.

Date # of swifts Time 1st swift left Time last swift left
August 20, 2003 * 164 6:20 AM 6:22 AM
August 21, 2003 * 56 6:18 AM 6:24 AM

These statistics would seem to indicate to me that Chimney Swifts do NOT roost in the same location evening after evening. It did appear to me that as the flock of birds circled the chimney at the church, some would break away and head in direct flight toward the south. I suppose these "break away" birds may have gone to search for a different roost site. Some would fly out in widening circles, but come back to the main group. When the birds did begin to enter the chimney, once in a while a bird or two would leave the chimney. I never noticed more than five or six birds leave once the flock decided to enter though. There also seemed to be a certain hesitancy by some birds to enter. Whether this was to catch "just one more" insect, or the bird just wanting to circle a little more, or perhaps look for a different roost site nearby, I do not know. Notice the time elapsed between the first bird entering and the last bird entering the roost site. These were 20, 38, 34, 51 and 41 minutes of elapsed time for the first five dates of observation. Compare this with the exit time in the morning and one can see a marked difference in the rate of entering the roost site compared with the rate of exit. All the birds exited in two minutes on August 20 and in six minutes on August 21. After all night in the chimney they appear eager to get into the air and find something to eat!

It was easier and more accurate to count birds coming out of the chimney roost in the morning than counting them as they entered in the evening. The reason for this is that the birds circle in the evening and some fluttered toward the chimney but did not enter, some do enter and still others fly down toward the chimney but go behind it so it is momentarily out of one's line of sight. Conversely, in the morning as the birds leave the roost, it is "up, up and away".

I enjoyed making these observations and I sort of "got hooked" so I had to go out on successive days to see what would be happening at the roost.

Upper Arlington, OH:  Hastings Middle School / 1850 Hastings Lane 43220

August 18th - 30 Swifts
August 19 - 50

Sept. 4th - 50
Sept. 6th - 0
Sept. 7th - 0

August 31

Austin, TX:  Driving in S. Austin at about 7:55 pm on Aug. 31, 2003, I noticed a large number of Chimney Swifts swirling above a chimney at Becker Elementary.  Nearest intersection is S. 5th and W. Monroe. There was a continual light rain. My first estimate was 900 swifts. As they entered the roost, I counted by 10's, and reached a total of 2000 (to the nearest 100), which I believe is a more accurate approximation. There were still 2 or 3 flying at 8:25 pm.

Joplin, MO:  17 Goetz Blvd., Joplin, . 64801  I counted 365 Chimney Swift go to roost last evening, August 31, 2003, at an  apartment building, nw corner of 4th & Moffet.  I'll count one evening again next

Austin, TX:  The Becker Elementary School on Bouldin Ave in S Austin has a roost. My best guess estimate is 350 birds that are roosting in a chimney type structure in back of the school.  Thanks for giving me an excuse to really watch them, they are incredible to watch fly in to the roost as they drop air off their wings they look like falling leaves.

September 1

Silverton, OR:  I decided this evening to go into Silverton here and see if I could find a local Vaux's Swift roosting site since I could tell migration was developing up here in the hills. the swifts have been flying over the house here in full daytime one or two at a time. I knew about 3 previously used sites so checked them out. I drove around town until I heard them flying overhead and started watching where they were headed. as sunset  approached, I could see them heading to the old downtown buildings. I quickly found the old building they were gathering around. it had a large chimney in the back. The building is probably over 100 years old. anyway, I parked and watched the show for 15-20 minutes. the swifts gathered and started hanging closer and closer in a flock and circling the building. the chattering was loud. At about 8:15 pm at dusk, they completely shut off all noise and started funneling around the building and diving around the chimney but not going in. eventually they started dropping in single file 15-20 at a time. I figured there were 2-300 in this group. I had my video camera and got the whole show which I will try to bring to Milo next time i come down. There may be other spots in town. i may go around and scout some more this week.

September 2

Oregon:  Well I went back to the old chimney this evening to watch the swifts again. They were gathering up again but it looked like only half the size of yesterday. To emphasize the shortening days, they went in about 3-4 minutes earlier tonight. They are silent when they start wanting to go in and if you weren't looking up, you wouldn't even know it was happening. Especially since it was pretty dusky when they fly in. I guess I wonder if the whole gathering thing is only a very few days or do they roost in the same spot for weeks. Is it the same group each night or is this one chimney in a long circuit that the migrating swifts know about? I guess someone has figured all this out.

September 5

New Port Richey, FL:  Just got back from counting our local swift roost along the west coast of Florida just north of Tarpon Springs in downtown New Port Richey, Pasco County.  Time; 7:55 pm till 8:08 pm 256 Chimney swifts flew in!

Atlanta, GA:  You wanted to know how many I saw ....Last nite in downtown Atlanta 100s ,but tonite on our deck at sundown 100s too...many in our chimney. I think I will have a party next week to show friends the swifts.... thanks for telling me about them.

Memphis, TN:  902 swifts Memphis, TN Sept. 5, 2003. The roost is located at Wells Station Elementary School on Wells Station Road in Memphis. Swifts entered chimney from 7:10 to 7:50.

Marietta, GA:   Tonight, September 5, 2003, my wife Rosanna and I observed a Chimney Swift roost between the time period 8:04 pm (DST Eastern Time Zone) through 8:21 pm. The roost is located at 125 Atlanta Road in the City of Marietta, Georgia near the city square. The roost is a brick house chimney at a private residence. The house was built in 1852. We observed 28 Chimney Swifts and 5 Night Hawks. The weather was partly cloudy with an air temperature of 82 degrees F.
Type of Swift: Chimney Swifts
Number of Chimney Swifts: 28
Time: 8:04 pm - 8:21 pm (DST Eastern Time Zone)
Date: September 5, 2003
Broad Description of the Site: Brick House Chimney
Weather Conditions: Party Cloudy, 82 degrees F
Thanks for organizing such an important bird observation study.

Muskogee, OK:   I belong to an Audubon chapter in eastern Oklahoma (Indian Nations Audubon Society), and I talked two of our members into monitoring a couple of chimney swift roosts. Here are their results:
9-05-03-----tall smokestack at 1700 Beacon St., First swifts arrived at 6:37 pm., but didn't go in. They went in around 8:00 p.m. Estimated count was 8500.

Oxford, OH:  Click Here for report