Maritimes SwiftWatch



Each year, a natural phenomenon takes place in Maritime towns, one so spectacular that it stops people in their tracks. It starts with just a few birds wheeling in the evening sky overhead, chattering to one another. As the sun sinks below the horizon, more of these dark, mysterious birds appear to congregate in an ever-increasing cloud of noise and motion that swirls over the buildings below. There are hundreds of birds. Suddenly, a solitary bird drops from the sky, fluttering out of the air like a leaf from a tree.

And then another one drops, and another. The flock is now circling a large chimney from which a vortex seems to suck individuals from the sky, into its depths. As curious onlookers watch, birds drop down the chimney at an alarming rate, each pausing briefly at the entrance before plunging into the darkness below. The little birds keep vanishing down the chimney until darkness falls and they have all disappeared into its depths.

This spectacle will occur every night in towns and cities across much of eastern North America. The mysterious little birds are aptly named Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica), and are revealing a strategy learned centuries ago when European settlers came to the continent, building houses, factories, churches and schools as they spread westward across North America. Those lucky enough to witness huge flocks of Chimney Swifts at communal roosts may not realize that this species is declining at a disturbing rate and, if nothing is done, may soon disappear from our skies forever.


Chimney Swift Range

Maritimes SwiftWatch: Program Overview

Maritimes SwiftWatch is led by Bird Studies Canada, in partnership with the Blomidon Naturalist Society, Environment Canada, Kennebecasis Naturalist Society, Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, NatureNB, Nova Scotia Bird Society, and the Pictou County Naturalists Club. 

Maritimes SwiftWatch is a citizen-scientist monitoring and conservation program that brings together volunteers and community groups to act as stewards for Chimney Swifts and their habitat. SwiftWatch participants in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia count Chimney Swifts at roost sites on four scheduled dates in spring and opportunistically throughout the summer months, and identify additional nest and roost sites during the season. The scheduled dates coincide with peak migration and are also used by Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario SwiftWatch programs. Conducting counts on the same dates throughout the swifts' range ensures that we are not double-counting Chimney Swifts as they move through the Maritimes and neighbouring regions. Maritimes SwiftWatch also works with partners to develop education and outreach tools and build community awareness and support for Chimney Swift conservation.


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