CHIMNEY SWIFT(Chaetura pelagica)

The Chimney swift is thus named because it adapted so well to human habitats that it started building its nest inside chimneys instead of caves or hollow trees, much to its detriment however. Building standards have evolved over the years and there are now fewer suitable chimneys left for its nesting needs.

The swift cannot perch due to the configuration of its feet, which only allow it to cling to vertical surfaces, aided in this by the stiff ends of its tail feathers. Its bill is very short but the mouth opens very wide to allow catching insects on the fly like swallows. The bird is around 14 cm (5 in.) long, and is mostly dark grey. Sexes are similar. The wing shape in flight looks a little bit like a boomerang. This species spends most of its time in the air, and while flying it often vocalizes when not swallowing insects.

In order for the nest to hang on the vertical surface of chimneys, the bird uses its glue-like saliva. Because they need a lot of saliva for this purpose, the salivary glands will double in size during the breeding season.

There have only been occasional sightings of chimney swifts on PEI (such as in the fall of 2005), and it does not breed on the island. This bird is listed as ‘threatened’ by COSEWIC. The bird’s breeding range includes the south eastern part of Canada and the eastern half of the USA. It migrates to the north western part of South America for the winter. It does not seem that this bird is capable of returning to nesting in its natural environment to maintain its populations levels, so there are projects to help find suitable nesting sites.

In the winter, chimney swifts will roosts in groups inside chimneys to keep warmer, just like bats do.

ChimneySwift - USNPS, Isle Royale National Park
ChimneySwift – USNPS, Isle Royale National Park