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September Chimney Swifts

i Sep 14th No Comments by

Authored by John Connors

Chimney Swifts were the object of study during the 1930s to 1950s, when volunteers and scientists teamed together and banded 550,000 swifts at nest and roost chimneys. Much of the effort was centered in Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia. We learned that only one pair will nest in a chimney, and that the pair will often return to nest in same chimney year after year. They raise 4-5 young who remain in the chimney for 4 weeks after hatching.

In August the birds abandon the nest chimneys to gather in flocks which roost at night in large industrial-sized chimneys as they prepare for migration. The roosts grow as northern birds join them, so by September many roosts in the south can host as many as 7500 swifts. These roosts allowed for the large banding efforts that took place – the swifts would be caught in netted cages placed atop the chimney mouths as the swifts emerged from their roost. Ultimately we learned that Chimney Swifts winter in the upper Amazon region of Peru.

Here in Wake County, the roosts have begun to assemble. Transfer Food Hall has more than 100 birds and you can hear the recordings we play there to attract them. Carnage MS, Hunter Elementary and Fred Olds Elementary all have roosts, as does the Dept of Motor Vehicle office (now closed) on New Bern Avenue. The downtown N&O roost does not appear to be materializing this year, so like last year there may be a Peregrine Falcon harassing them. That roost may have moved to Oberlin MS (formerly Daniels MS), which might be the best place to view swifts. Last September there were up to 4,000 swifts roosting there.

Chimney Swift in flight. Photo by Kimberlie Dewey

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