5 Facts About the Chimney Swift You Need to Know (and How You Can Play a Role in This Species’ Recovery)
Each month, we highlight a different species at risk across the Ottawa Valley to shed light on the iconic and diverse species calling this area home.
Need a refresher on what it means to be a species at risk?
These are plants and animals in danger of disappearing from Canada’s wild unless we act quickly.
There are five categories, depending on an animal or plant’s threat status:
- Special concern: species which may become threatened or endangered due to threats to their habitats or themselves.
- Threatened: species in the wild not yet endangered but likely to become so if urgent steps aren’t taken to stop activities threatening them or their habitats.
- Endangered: wild species close to becoming extirpated or extinct and if action isn’t taken soon, we could lose species in this category – possibly forever.
- Extirpated: the final step before complete extinction, extirpation is when a species can no longer live in its native habitat in Ontario or Quebec but can be found elsewhere in the world.
- Extinct: species no longer in existence.
Why are we concerned about species at risk?
CPAWS-OV is the voice for the wilderness across Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. We fight for environmental conservation of our public lands and waters to preserve the rich biodiversity in our community.
What species are we talking about this month?
We’re diving into Chaetura pelagica, otherwise known as the chimney swift.
This bird is threatened in Ontario and is protected under Quebec’s An Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife.
What does it look like?
This small bird is only 12-14 centimetres long.
It has a thin, long body and is a sooty-brown colour with a lighter throat. Its body is often compared to a cigar.
What type of noise does a chimney swift make?
Flocks of this small bird can make high-pitched chirping or twittering noises.
What do chimney swifts eat?
They eat small insects. It’s common for the chimney swift to forage in flight, meaning they catch flying insects in the air.
Where do they live?
Many years ago, chimney swifts nested in caves, hollow trees, or tree cavities in old-growth forests.
Since European settlement and the boom of development, this bird can be found in or around urban settlements within chimneys or other man-made structures where they can nest and roost.
You’ll also find them near water where flying insects spend their time as it’s easier to hunt.
What threatens the chimney swift?
The bird’s food source, flying insects, are in decline due to climate change, forestry and agricultural practices, and urbanization. Less food for the chimney swift means less population growth.
Their habitats are also at risk. Modernization of man-made structures, particularly chimneys on homes, makes it more difficult for this bird to nest or roost.
What can you do to protect the chimney swift?
If you see a chimney swift or come across its nest, do not disturb the bird or its home. Observe from a distance so they don’t feel uneasy in their habitat.
If you have a chimney swift nest or roost on your land, there are various programs which can support you in playing a role in this species’ recovery.