Fun Chimney Swift Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 20, 2022 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
Chimney Swift facts about a grayish small bird with big eyes, which flies high.

The chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) is an aerial bird. It is native to Central Alberta, Newfoundland, South Florida, Eastern Texas, and the Gulf States.

It migrates in winters to the headwaters of the Amazon in Western Brazil and Eastern Peru in South America. Studies indicate these birds being vagrant can be seen in Anguilla, Barbados, Jamaica, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The biological name of this bird is Chaetura pelagica. The chimney swift's name refers to its preferred nesting site and its swift flight.

These birds cling to a vertical surface and cannot perch upright on hollow trees like other birds. They fly throughout the day and rest during the nights.

They are gregarious species that hunt in groups, migrate in flocks, and roost in high concentrations. These swifts are monogamous, which means once the breeding pair is established, these swifts usually do not change their mating partner.

However, they do, sometimes, form a new pair seasonally. With the introduction of chimneys to North America by the European settlers, these birds' populations have increased drastically as chimneys are favorable for nesting.

If this article interests you, check out our articles on birds of paradise and barn owl.

Chimney Swift Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a chimney swift?

The chimney swift or Chaetura pelagica is a bird.

What class of animal does a chimney swift belong to?

The chimney swift belongs to the Aves class.

How many chimney swift are there in the world?

The population of these Swifts is recorded to be around 7,700,000 adult individuals.

Where does a Chimney Swift live?

Where does a chimney swift live?

The chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) adapts to tropical, terrestrial, and temperate habitats. They live in forests, rainforests, scrub forests, wetlands, suburban lands, agricultural areas, and mountains.

They are spread across the Eastern half of the United States and Canada's Southern territory. During the winters, swifts migrate to South America and are rarely spotted in western parts of the United States during summer.

What is a chimney swift's habitat?

Chimney swifts live in a vast variety of habitats ranging from shrublands and grasslands to forests as well as urban areas.

The chimney swift species' nesting and roosting habitats are invariable. They showcase constancy in the nest and roost sites. The nesting and roosting habitats are fundamental to these swifts as they depend on them for breeding and roosting. While nesting, the habitat occupied by pairs is later transformed as a roosting habitat for a high concentration of individuals.

Chimney swifts have densely groups populated in urban habitats with large concentrations of chimneys. They live and nest in chimneys as their construction allows the birds to build nests and roost in vertical forage as they cannot perch upright on hollow trees like other birds. They also live and roost in hollow trees.

Who do chimney swifts live with?

These chimney swifts are clubbable species, and they flock in groups of 6-20 and roost in the strength of hundreds and thousands.

How long does a chimney swift live?

The average lifespan of chimney swifts is 4.6 years. The highest recorded age is over 14 years.

How do they reproduce?

The chimney swift's breeding season usually occurs between May and July, but this varies with their location. Chimney swifts have a seasonally monogamous pair.

Chimney swifts nest in the dark, in chimneys and hollow trees abandoned by woodpeckers during breeding season. Their nest is in a half-cup or bracket shape.

The nest's sticks are glued together with the help of the superabundant saliva they emit out, which also holds the nest to the vertical surfaces. After mating, the female swift litters four to five glossy eggs in the nest. The breeding pair protects the nesting eggs together during the incubation period.

The eggs hatch into chicks post 18-21 days of nesting, and they are altricial. Hence they continue to be under the protection of parent swifts for the next 14-18 days after which they are capable of taking their first flight.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of chimney swifts was updated twice by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It was changed from Least Concern to Near Threatened in 2010 and was further notified as Vulnerable in the year 2018.

The exact reasons for the abrupt decline in this swift family of birds' numbers are unfamiliar.

One of the reasons for the decrease is relatively attributed to the decrease of insect population due to pesticides. When the temperatures drop, these birds prey on insects present on the road, and there is a fair chance of the bird being hit by vehicles.

The chimney swifts cannot survive storms or hurricanes that come up against them during migration.

In North America, as per the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, humans cannot remove a chimney swift's nest without a federal permit. Chimney swifts are listed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Chimney Swift Fun Facts

What do chimney swifts look like?

The chimney swift is a dark, sooty bird. Their plumage is dark sooty olive above and grayish brown below. Their upper tail is covered with a set of feathers called coverts that help smooth airflow in the wings and tail.

They have a slightly paler ramp and significantly paler throat. Their feet are short, but the short toes are tipped with sharp curved claws.

Swifts have large, deep-set eyes protected with small patches of coarse black bristly feathers. Their iris is dark brown, and the beak is black. The tail is short and square-shaped.

How cute are they?

The chimney swift is cute in their typical vertical forage style, taking speedy flights, chirpy sounds, and their small-sized plumage body.

How do they communicate?

The chimney swift makes twittering calls. They communicate through a series of hard, high pitched chirps. During mating, they drift in the air together with wings forming a sharp 'V.' When disturbed, the chimney swift claps its wings loudly once or twice against its body.

They do so even when they fall several feet to lower locations. This act can produce large thundering sounds when large roosts of birds are disturbed. Swifts try to scare away potential predators by exhibiting this behavior.

How big is a chimney swift?

The chimney swift is a medium-sized Swift, its length and wingspan are almost two-thirds to that of a normal swift.

How fast can a chimney swift fly?

Chimney swifts are predominantly aerialists and are primarily seen in flight when they are not roosting. Swifts fly showing rapid, inconsistent wing beats while scattering with short quick glides. Researches indicate that these Chaetura swifts can fly more than a mile above the earth's surface. The speed of their flight is 36 mph (58 kph).

How much does a chimney swift weigh?

The weight of the chimney swift ranges from 0.6-1.1 oz (17-30 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male and female birds of the swift species are called male chimney swift and female chimney swift.

What would you call a baby chimney swift?

The baby chimney swift is called a chick.

What do they eat?

The chimney swift are primarily insectivores. They prey on flying insects. They search for food by hanging on to the tree branches and catch flying insects like whiteflies, flies, stoneflies, mayflies. They also feed on spiders, ants, bees, aphids. They are capable of eating about 12,000 small insects each day.

Are they dangerous?

Chimney swifts have been described as peaceful birds and are compared to doves. There is no established evidence that these species are dangerous to humans or cause any damage.

Would they make a good pet?

Though these birds of swift species are not dangerous to human beings, these birds panic when caged on closed surfaces, and they cannot live alone. They love to fly most of the time other than resting and nesting. Hence it is not advisable to have them as pets.

Did you know...

The chimney swifts are called 'flying cigars' because of their body shape. Its flight profile is referred to as a 'cigar with wings'.

Its long wings extend beyond its tail when folded. It has pointed wingtips which help in reducing air turbulence while in flight. It drinks with its wings gliding through the surface of the water with its beak.

It also bathes on the wing, moving above the water body's surface, drifting its breast slightly into the water. The humerus is relatively short while the outer bones are significantly elongated. This allows the bird to flap very rapidly.

The Vaux's Swift and Chapman's Swift are similar species of genus Chaetura.

All the 10 tail feathers of chimney swifts have shafts that extend beyond the vanes with sharp, stiff points at the end that help the bird to hover itself against vertical surfaces.

Migration of chimney swifts begins in August and continues till October. However, the migration season also depends on the region the bird lives in. During migration, as many as 10,000 birds in a flock are seen circling like a tornado.

The chimney swift takes 19-21 days of time to hatch or incubate and 14-18 more days for a chick to leave a chimney.

How to build a chimney swift tower?

Chimney swift towers are the best techniques adapted to attract and preserve these birds' populations. The tower acts as an artificial environment to roost or nest.

The Audubon bird-friendly communities play a pivotal role in protecting chimney swifts. School campuses, church grounds, and public parks are ideal sites to establish these towers. Kiosk-style towers that are ideally 12 ft (3.6 m) tall and free-standing are recommended for chimney swift.

It is advisable to construct these towers before installation. Once the tower is assembled, it is transported to the destination site for installation.

What to feed a rescued baby bird chimney swift?

Baby chimney swifts can be fed with crickets, flies, and dried insect food that is properly soaked.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including secretary bird, or great green macaw.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our chimney swift coloring pages.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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