Chimney Swifts have returned from South America. They typically nest during June and July. Look for them flying over towns and neighborhoods or listen for their twittering calls.
Chimney Swifts often described as ‘cigars with wings,’ spend a majority of their life in flight. They are small smudge-gray birds that consume thousands of airborne insects a day. While not in flight, Chimney Swifts cling to vertical surfaces using spines on the end of their tail feathers to help support them. Chimney Swifts are unable to perch on a branch like other birds. Historically, these birds nested in hollowed limbs, snags, and even in caves. As cities became more common and mature trees became less common, Chimney Swifts adapted to roosting and nesting in chimneys.
In 2018, Chimney Swifts’ threat level was upgraded from Near Threatened to Vulnerable by the IUCN Redlist. Over the last 50 years, their population has declined over 70%. In recent years, the rate of decline has accelerated. Their decline is attributed to a decreased availability of insects (their food source), shifts in chimney design, and the capping and demolition of chimneys. A majority of other aerial insectivores are experiencing a similar drastic population decline.
Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) is supporting Chimney Swift protection through a variety of approaches. We have installed nearly 150 Chimney Swift towers to provide breeding habitats for these birds. You can help us by reporting what you see at Chimney Swift Towers. Even if you see no birds, please let us know!
Through our education initiatives, we are working to spread awareness of the importance of Chimney Swift conservation and how individuals can support their protection.