Chimney Swift Photo: Ronnie d’Entremont
Many city dwellers are oblivious that they share their neighbourhood with a rare and fascinating bird for part of each year. But once you learn to recognize their chattering voice and crescent-shaped wings, you can’t miss the Chimney Swifts zooming overhead! To those in the know, these encounters are a happy sign that Chimney Swifts can still find habitat – and a concerning reminder that they need our help.
This year on Giving Tuesday, we’re asking you to help Chimney Swifts and other rapidly-declining bird species that need urgent conservation action.
A helpful and unique bird
Chimney Swifts are helpful neighbours, catching and eating insects as they fly through the air. They can’t perch, walk, or swim like most birds you see. Instead, they fly all day and roost in chimneys at night with special feet that are perfect for clinging to the vertical chimney wall. Watching a group of swifts dive into a chimney is a stunning spectacle! They nest inside chimneys as well, with only one pair occupying a given chimney at a time. Hosting swifts provides them with much-needed habitat – and it doesn’t damage the chimney.
Chimney Swift on nest Photo: Ally Manthorne
Chimney Swifts are losing their homes
Unfortunately, the Chimney Swift is declining rapidly in North America. Its Canadian population has decreased by more than 90% since 1970 according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and it has been listed as a Threatened species in Canada. In fact, the Chimney Swift belongs to one of the most imperilled groups of birds in the continent.
One of the factors involved in this decline is habitat loss. For their population to endure, Chimney Swifts need habitat in Canada to return to from their wintering sites in South America. Chimney Swifts used to nest and roost inside of dead, hollow trees, but as people replaced forests with cities and towns, these birds adapted to using our chimneys instead. Now, the swifts are losing these too. Many traditional chimneys are being torn down or replaced with models that swifts can’t use.
How you can help today
Fortunately there are people out there who know, love, and act on behalf of the Chimney Swift! You will join this caring team and support efforts to conserve all of Canada’s birds by making a gift today.
Dedicated volunteers with our SwiftWatch program determine which chimneys in their communities are used by swifts and monitor the number of swifts using each site each year. They also take action when a chimney is in danger of being removed. When building owners learn that they are Chimney Swift hosts, many want to help them by doing their renovations in a way that preserves existing habitat. Our staff are helping with these actions and also conducting research to help us better understand the habitat needs of Chimney Swifts to conserve the species. Your gift will support these efforts and more.
Here are some examples of how your gift can help birds:
$20 pays for one “Swift-friendly” property sign – a way to recognize landowners who conserve a chimney for nesting Chimney Swifts, and encourage more landowners to do the same.
$50 provides training and survey materials for one new SwiftWatch volunteer so they can be a champion for swifts.
$100 covers costs for a “Swift Night Out” public presentation and field trip, which empowers more people to identify and help Chimney Swifts.
$250 purchases a temperature/relative humidity data logger, which we are using to study the internal microclimate of nesting and roosting habitat. This research will help us better understand how to conserve habitat for Chimney Swifts.
$800 buys a camera to monitor Chimney Swift nest activity and chick survival.
$2500 provides a durable outdoor interpretive panel that allows more people to discover, enjoy, and celebrate a local roost site.
Want to help Chimney Swifts and other birds that need urgent conservation action? Click here.