My Bantam Lake

Chimney Swift

Written on 06/10/2018

Chaetura pelagica

Chimney Swifts are very small birds with slender bodies and very long, narrow, curved wings. They have round heads, short necks, and short, tapered tails. THe wide bill is so short that it is hard to see. They are approximately 12 to 15 centimeters in length and 27 to 30 centimeters in wingspan. These birds are dark gray-brown all over, slightly paler on the throat. They fly rapidly with nearly constant wingbeats, and often twist from side to side and bank erratically. Their wingbeats are stiff, with very little flex at the wrists. They often give a high, chattering call while they fly. Chimney swifts nest in chimneys and on other vertical surfaces in dim, enclosed areas. They forage for insects over urban and suburban areas, rivers, lakes, forests, and fields. The species has suffered as chimneys fall into disuse across the continent, and has reached a Declining conservation status.

Fun Facts:

  • The Chimney Swift can't perch. Instead, it can only use its long claws to cling to vertical surfaces.
  • Chimney Swifts are among the most aerial of birds, flying almost constantly except when roosting overnight and nesting. They even bathe in flight by skimming the surface of the water and shaking the droplets from their plumage as they fly away.
  • The Chimney Swift uses glue-like salive from a gland under its tongue to cement its nest to the chimeny wall or rock face.
  • The oldest recorded Chimney Swift was a male that lived to be at least 14 years old.

Source: Chimney Swift Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology