The Chimney Swift is a familiar, but rapidly declining, aerial insectivore in many cities of the eastern North American. The decline is estimated at 67% since 1970 and another 50% of the current population (i.e. half-life) could be lost in the next 27 years. The breeding range of this species spans across central and eastern North America; from southern Saskatchewan, south through Texas and east to the Atlantic coast. This species nests in cavities (e.g. hollow trees), but benefited from the creation of artificial nesting structures since the arrival of Europeans, whose chimneys mimicked natural cavities. Today, Chimney Swifts commonly nest or roost in chimneys or similar available structures in urban and suburban areas. They can also be observed near lakes and rivers, where the aerial prey are abundant.
The major threats for the species are residential and commercial developments, which destroy nesting sites, human disturbance at nesting and roosting site, decline of prey availability and climate change.
Chimney Swifts are long-distant migrant. They migrate through Mexico and Central America to reach the upper Amazon basin, in Peru, northern Chile, northeastern Ecuador and northwestern Brazil. During migration, they will fly over forests and open areas, and roost in chimneys in urban and suburban areas. River corridors also seem to be an important habitat during migration, since surveys showed that they follow these corridors more intensively while migrating. Winter habitats of this species are not well known. The species uses open terrain, but requires roosting sites such as chimneys, churches and caves. It has also been observed in riparian and tropical forests, on farmland, urban and suburban areas.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Generalist, Eastern Forest
Wintering: Generalist, South American Lowlands
Breeding: Climate Change, Contaminants, Urbanization
Wintering: Climate Change, Contaminants, Urbanization
Population Loss Since 1970: -67%
Urgency/Half Life: 27 years
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2019-1 – Vulnerable
U.S. Conservation Status: N/A
Canadian Conservation Status: Threatened (SARA)
Birds of Conservation Concern: USFWS – Bird of Conservation Concern
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half-Life|
|Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture||16%||-57%||37 years|
|Atlantic Coast Joint Venture||28%||-61%||28 years|
|Central Hardwoods Joint Venture||7%||-81%||20 years|
|East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture||9%||-64%||28 years|
|Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Region Joint Venture||20%||-68%||18 years|
|Gulf Coast Joint Venture (W)||1%; AI = 5||-28%||***|
|Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (W)||8%; AI = 5||-67%||23 years|
*** indicates insufficient or unreliable data to calculate a regional long-term change or half-life estimate.
(W) indicates the region supports a significant wintering population of this species.
AI=# indicates the area importance for wintering populations on a scale from 1 to 5.
Participate to the World Swift Day
Identify chimneys used for nesting and roosting
Keep the opening to your chimney free of any obstructions. Grills and caps should be avoided
If your chimney has previously been used by swifts, keep it, even if it is no longer used for heating
Participate in programs that monitor chimney activities:
Provide artificial nesting towers
Species Conservation Plans:
COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) in Canada
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
Cadman, M.D., D.A. Sutherland, G.G. Beck. Lepage, and A.R. Couturier (eds.). 2007. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Sutides Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Natures, Toronto, Ontario. xxii + 706.
Zanchetta, C., D. C. Tozer, T. M. Fitzgerald, K. Richardson, and D. Badzinski. 2014. Tree cavity use by Chimney Swifts: implications for forestry and population recovery. Avian Conservation and Ecology 9(2): 1.
Birds of North America (BNA) Species Account