UPDATE: 'Chimney Swift Sit' Canceled, Spectacular 'Swift Night Out' Still a Go

UPDATE: ‘Chimney Swift Sit’ Canceled, Spectacular ‘Swift Night Out’ Still a Go

2 PM SEPT. 1, 2016, UPDATE:

The Chimney Swift Sit scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 3, has been canceled, due primarily to a smaller-than-expected flock of participants — birds, that is, not humans.

“The large roost of 500 that started a week ago — and we hoped would grow into thousands as it did last year — has not occurred,” said Marion Miller of the Kane County Audubon Society.  “The number of Swifts going to roost at the Bluff City Boulevard chimney has fallen drastically.”

Miller said bird migration is not always predictable, so there is still a possibility for a Chimney Swift Sit at a time to be named later.

“We will keep our eyes and ears open, and if a large roost of 1,000 plus develops within Kane County, we will reschedule,” she said.

Miller said there are a few spots with roosts of 100 to 200 bird, but the KCA hasn’t found any of the larger roosts of 1,000 or more in a public area that is safe for group viewing.

You can learn about some roost locations on the Bird Sighting page and Chimney Swifts over the Fox Valley Facebook group page.


Chimney swifts are birds that are often seen flying over towns, cities and rivers eating thousands of insects. Swifts were once common breeders in Illinois have been declining since the 1960s, and are quickly disappearing from their northern range in Canada.

Kane County Audubon Society is actively working on conservation efforts for Chimney Swifts.  These efforts include building artificial chimneys for Swifts to nest and educating communities on the benefits of the Chimney Swifts.  In keeping with its conservation efforts, KCA is sponsoring two events this fall: A Chimney Swift Sit and The Swift Night Out.

Chimney_Swifts_Gordon Garcia

Large group flying Swifts by chimney. Photo by Gordon Garcia.

The Swift Night Out

  • When: Sept. 9, 10 and 11
  • Where: Any Place You Can Find a Roost

The 2016 Swift Night Out is your chance to help the Swifts by locating and reporting roosting spots you find around sunset as you watch the skies.

“We are learning that many roosting chimneys are part of unused factories, old schools and unoccupied old homes,” said Marion Miller of the Kane County Audubon Society. “These structures are often renovated, removed, or fall down if they are no longer a vital component of a building. These changes result in a critical loss of habitat. By helping us identify roosting spots we can begin to learn how to preserve or replace these needed roosts.”

It’s simple to help out during the Swift Night Out. The KCA suggests these three steps:

1.   Find a Roost

Find a structure where Chimney Swifts are entering around sunset and count the numbers that enter.

To do this, keep your eyes to skies and watch for Swifts, follow them in the direction they are flying. Sometimes it may take more than one night to find that location. That’s OK, it’s fun to search and explore!

Once you have that roost located, pick a night (Sept. 9, 10 or 11) and watch from 20 minutes before sunset until all birds have gone in, usually 20 to 30 minutes after sunset. You can help out one, two or three nights, count the same structure each night or find different ones each night. Every count is important.

If it’s raining the Swift’s behavior is not as predictable and they may have roosted well before sunset.

Need help finding a roost? Just call 630-291-2690 or email MySwiftHelp@gmail.com.

2.   Count the Birds That Enter the Chimney

When hundreds to thousands start entering a chimney, it can be difficult to count the Chimney Swifts.  Here are some tips for counting large roosts.

Count with a partner. One person keeps their eyes on the roost and as birds enter you call out numbers. The other person has a clipboard and writes the numbers down. With large roosts over 100, it works best to count in groups of 10. So the recorder will just write every 10 and then at the end add them up.

Tips on Counting Swifts by Paul and Georgean Kyle: “When counting Chimney Swifts at roosts, the numbers can become overwhelming — especially as the numbers continue to climb as we move toward fall migration over the next few weeks. What we have found to work quite well is to use an athletic lap counter. These are available at most sporting goods stores. You can tally without taking your eyes off of the swifts.

“When the numbers of swifts are relatively low, a direct count can be made — one click per swift. At sites where the numbers exceed several hundred (or the entry rate is high), make one click per 10 swifts and multiply the end number of clicks by 10 for the total. It works really well if several counters can average their counts at the end.”

If you not confident your counting is accurate just let the KCA know. Reporting a structure that has a large roost, even if the numbers might be only an estimate, is important to us, too.

3.   Report Your Findings

Sharing your observation with us is so important, please notify the KCA of:

  •  The date you observed.
  • Beginning and ending observation times.
  • The number of Swifts that enter the structure.
  • The type of structure (chimney on house, school, factory, a silo, etc.)
  • The address of the building.
  • If you use eBird, please also submit your observations in their data base. In the comment section document that your observation was part of KCA Swift Night Out event.

SOURCE: Kane County Audubon news release

FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: Chimney Swift in nest. Photo by Jim Edlhuber.