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Chimney Swift


About Chimney Swifts


The Chimney Swift is a small, charcoal-coloured bird with long, pointed wings and a short, tapered body. It is affectionately known as the "flying cigar". Its breeding range stretches across Canada from southeastern Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia, and south through the U.S. to Texas and Florida. It winters in the upper Amazon region of South America.

The Chimney Swift has shared space with humans since we arrived on this continent. During migration, Chimney Swifts congregate by the hundreds (or sometimes thousands) at sheltered roost sites such as large chimneys at schools and churches. It's truly amazing to watch huge numbers of swifts enter chimneys at dusk, usually in a matter of minutes. This eye-catching behaviour provides a valuable opportunity to monitor population trends.

Chimney Swifts are monogamous. Breeding pairs disperse from communal roost sites around mid-June to begin nest building. Nests, made of twigs and glued together with saliva, are usually constructed against the vertical surfaces inside chimneys. However, nests can also be found in hollow trees, air intake shafts, grain silos, barns, sheds, abandoned wells, or similar sites that are accessible to swifts and offer protection from weather and predators.

Swifts typically lay between two and five eggs. Parents take turns incubating. The eggs hatch after 16-21 days. Chicks are ready to leave the safety of the nest at 30 days old.

Swift Facts

  • Chimney Swifts do everything in flight - bathe, catch insects, and gather twigs for nest building.

  • Nests are built mostly of twigs, glued together with saliva.

  • Chimney Swifts cannot perch or walk. Their feet are designed for clinging to vertical surfaces.

  • Their tail feathers are tipped with stiff bristles, which help them to cling.

  • A Chimney Swift can eat a third of its body weight in insects every day.

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