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Chimney Swift

Credit: Bruno Kern

Chaetura pelagica

Species at Risk Status

Federal Government status: Threatened

Provincial Government status: Threatened


  • Dark, cigar shaped bird with long narrow wings and no noticeable tail.
  • Sexes look identical.
  • Often mistaken for swallows but they are not related.

Habits and Reproduction

  • Chatters constantly as it flies and spends most of its waking hours on the air.
  • Able to echolocate.
  • Migrant returning mid May from Peru.
  • May live ~14 yrs.
  • Rest in chimneys during migration.
  • Day shift feeder that screens the air for insects.
  • Nest in dark sheltered places, such as in chimneys (uncapped, unlined chimneys generally build pre 1960), barns, silos and large hollow trees
  • Nests tend to be within 1 km of water
  • Half saucer like nest built from twigs and “glued” with salvia
  • Lays 4-5 eggs
  • Monogamous
  • ~7,500 of breeding age in Ontario


  • With the removal of old growth forests, for the past 150 years, swifts have depended on large chimneys for nesting sites. With fewer chimneys of that style, old barns and silos, they have lost their preferred nesting sites.
  • Pesticide use particularly in wintering grounds.
  • Susceptible to severe weather at migration and breeding time

Conservation Actions

  • If you think your chimney has nesting swifts please don’t clean it during breeding season (May-September).
  • Consider leaving your chimney unlined and directly vent your furnace.
  • For more information in the Parry Sound area, contact:

Range Map

Bird Studies Canada

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