About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

When chimney swifts leave

During migration, spectacular numbers of Chimney Swifts often roost in large chimneys. The following is a link to this photographer's website: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grmann/.
Photo of several Chimney Swifts inside a chimney
via Wikimedia Commons
Chimney Swifts are plain, dark, sooty colored birds with slender bodies and very long, narrow, curved wings. In late August to early September you may see them migrate across mid-Michigan in large flocks as they make their way to South American wintering areas in the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil. When they make a pit-stop on the journey south, as many as 10,000 swifts may circle in a tornado-like flock at dusk and funnel into a roosting chimney to spend the night.

Chimney Swifts are fascinating birds that surprisingly are unstudied, because of their inaccessible nesting and roosting sites and their aerial lifestyle. They are aerial insectivores and fly over rooftops, fields, and rivers to catch insects on the fly and even dive down over water to drink and bathe in flight. When they do come to rest, they never sit on perches like most birds. Their long claws are suited only for clinging to the walls of chimneys and other vertical surfaces.

So keep your eyes and ears open for migrating swifts. Chimney Swifts give a fast, twittering series of high-pitched chip notes, about 3 seconds long. In flight the chips can be so close together that they become a buzzy, insect-like twitter.

Michigan Audubon posted a video of Chimney Swifts roosting in East Lansing, MI recently: https://youtu.be/oE_15V27xDg

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