Common Name:Chimney Swift
The Chimney Swift’s physical appearance
and lifestyle very much reflect the English translation
of the family it belongs to Apodiformes meaning
“form without feet.” Chimney Swifts gained their common
name as a result of their propensity to build nests
within chimneys and other convenient, man-made cavities.
A small, sooty-colored bird – usually no more than about
13cm in length and between roughly 17 and 30 grams in
weight – the Chimney Swift’s long, stiff wings and
short, stumpy tail feathers combine to give it a very
distinctive “cigar on wings” profile when in flight.
Spending much of its time on the wing, the Chimney
Swift’s legs are quite small in proportion and function
in little more than perching, hence the “footless”
classification. There is no discernable differences in
appearance between males and females, both displaying
the typical coloration of a sooty olive or brown back
with paler underside and they are both about the same
While the Chimney Swift’s rather broad breeding range
– extending from Texas eastward across the United Sates to the coast
and northward to the lower reaches of Saskatchewan and Ontario,
Canada – encompasses an equally broad variety of habitats, these
birds often concentrate in urban areas where large numbers of
chimneys provide ample space for nest sites and communal roosts.
This is not to imply that Chimney Swifts no longer inhabit hollow
trees, caves, and other natural cavities, however, as is still quite
prevalent in less well-populated areas. As their adaptations would
suggest, Chimney Swifts are aerial insectivores, pursuing their
quarry with agile and elegantly-fast flight and either taking it
whole or capturing it in their beak depending on size.
One of the most aerial of all landbird species,
Chimney Swifts are in near constant flight when not at roost. Flying
is fast and erratic, with many sharp banks and turns. Chimney swifts
are weakly territorial and often roost en mass, however they are not
communal nesters. When threatened, a unique “booming” wing flap
display is employed to startle would-be intruders. Considered
monogamous, a breeding pair of Chimney Swifts will typically lay one
clutch of eggs per year in a saucer-shaped nest constructed of twigs
and specially formulated, cement-like saliva adhered to the inner
wall of a cavity. Non-breeding “helpers” often aid a breeding pair
in feeding and watching over young, and nests are generally located
separate form the large communal roosts. Pair bond formation
involves elaborate aerial courtship displays with a special V-ing
flight trait playing a major role in pair bond maintenance as well.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Chimney Swifts are mostly seen in urban and suburban
environments being seen commonly during the summer months in the
city of Buffalo and surrounding suburban areas.