Chimney Swift survey in Orangeville on clear evenings over the next couple of weeks

  • UPDATE (August 15): a number of us have been out at least eleven times since early June.  
    • Our first night, story we counted as many as 16 adults flying high above the main core of the downtown.  Much of the flying was north of Broadway. As the evening passed, they seemed to fly lower and closer together more often. Fifteen minutes after sunset, 10 of them flew tightly together and low over the buildings, heading south, and disappeared.  Five minutes later 4 birds repeated the pattern of flying tightly together low over the buildings and again disappeared.
    • On other evenings, I watched a similar pattern, though only with 10 birds, and then with only 7 birds, and finally only 6 birds.  I moved around the downtown, scouting for what seemed to me like suitable chimneys, and noticed that almost all the old and new chimneys were covered over or even closed off. 
    • Each new evening, I moved ever further south and east, trying to catch the swifts as they flew to roost. The last evening, Cathy and I observed behind the buildings on the south side of Broadway.  As the evenings were still lengthening, the timing of disappearance stretched to 9:15 pm and then to 9:21 pm.  At that late time — when the ‘floating specks’ in my eyes were becoming noticeable as the light levels dropped — 1 last bird flew overhead and disappeared. But this time, I think I might have found at least one inhabited roost chimney! 
    • Since then, we have discovered 2 chimneys in downtown Orangeville in which Chimney Swifts are nesting. We have observed and photographed birds entering as well as leaving chimneys, including daytime observations.
    • Thanks to input from several of our Shelburne members, we have also located and photographed one  active roost in Shelburne.
    • As of August 13th, I am not seeing any more Chimney Swifts in Shelburne nor in Orangeville. Could anyone confirm these observations, please? Does this mean the birds are already in migration and have left our area? That would be an 11-week residence in our towns …
UCFNC Chimney Swift entering Mill St roost 2015June24

Chimney Swift entering Mill St roost 2015June24

UCNFC Chimney Swift exiting Shelburne roost 2015July16

Chimney Swift exiting Shelburne roost 2015July16

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost

Chimney Swift exiting roost Broadway 2015July29

  • I have begun the careful process of contacting the owners of the roost chimneys, letting them know that they are supporting a threatened species, which places some restrictions on when and what they can do with their chimneys. The simplest view is that doing nothing is probably their best course of action. However, there are many possible complications. 

I would invite any of you to join me near the Library on Mill Street in Orangeville on clear evenings fifteen minutes before sunset over the next couple of weeks to see what we can continue to observe about Chimney Swifts.  The birds will shortly be leaving this area, so our remaining time is short. However, at least last week, they were still entering roosts during the daytime, which seems to indicate that they still have pre-fledglings in their nest. ( … You might want to do this in your home town instead! …)

  • Historically, Chimney Swifts inhabited large, hollow trees. As Europeans settled in North America, these habitats became scarce. Swifts adapted and began using chimneys for nesting and roosting.
  • Chimney Swifts are once again facing complex challenges. Their Canadian population has declined by 95% since 1968. We know relatively little about what’s driving severe declines among this group of birds. Suspected causes include: nesting habitat availability; human-caused disturbances; changes in food supply (insect populations); and unpredictable severe weather events (climate change). Lastly, because these species roost or congregate in large groups to spend the night, they are especially vulnerable to degradation or loss of roosting sites.  Their habitat is being lost as buildings are modernized and chimneys are capped, steel-lined, or torn down. Other factors, such as severe weather events and changes in insect abundance quite probably due to pesticide use, are likely also affecting swifts.
  • Through SwiftWatch, volunteers and community members are filling critical information gaps and addressing key threats. Since 2010, volunteers have identified 750 active chimneys in the Maritimes and Ontario. Of these, over 100 are now regularly monitored. Bird Studies Canada and partner organizations are working with schools, home owners, building managers, chimney sweeps, and townships to maintain and protect these sites.
  • SwiftWatch is a Citizen Science monitoring and conservation program that brings volunteers and community groups together to act as stewards for Chimney Swifts and their habitat.  Ontario SwiftWatch succeeds because community groups and biologists work together to locate, monitor and conserve Chimney Swifts and their habitat in our urban centres.
  • We will submit our data to SwiftWatch.  There is information about Chimney Swifts and this program on that and related pages.


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