Volunteers Needed for Chimney Swift Roost Counts!

Posted on July 29, 2015

chimney watch 1 (Lebanon 20-May-14)For the last couple of years, NH Audubon has been collecting data on roosting Chimney Swifts as part of a larger effort to figure out what threats are facing this declining species.

Some of the best swift watching comes in August, as birds finish breeding and start to gather in large communal roosts – invariably in residential or commercial chimneys. Some of these congregations can contain over 100 birds, and watching them funnel into a chimney like a miniature tornado is one of the more exciting things you can experience in NH birding.

Between actual sunset and the end of twilight, swifts start to gather near their roost and begin swirling around in an ever tightening mass of birds. Every now and then a few will make a pass at the chimney opening, sometimes going in and sometimes pulling up at the last minute. The bulk of birds will enter within a short time frame – usually 5-10 minutes – and when they do it can look as if they are being sucked into the chimney by a large vacuum cleaner in the fireplace. But as impressive and obvious as this spectacle is, we still have a very incomplete picture of where the largest roosts are in New Hampshire, and that’s where citizen scientists can greatly aid us in our efforts to learn more about this aspect of swift biology.

It’s easy to be a Chimney Swift volunteer. All you need to do is find swifts over an urbanCHSW (Debbie LaValley) or suburban area in the evening and watch them for a while. You might not find an actual roost on your first try, but you’ll at least learn if swifts frequent the area, how many there are, and if they seem to focus their attention on a particular area. With more watching and perhaps an extra pair of eyes or two (bring along a friend!), you might be able to find the roost on a second or third try.

If you’re interested in volunteering, or simply wish to report a large group of swifts in your neighborhood, contact Pam Hunt at phunt@nhaudubon.org or (603) 224-9909 x328.