Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Chimney Swifts: Monitoring and Conserving

From Director William Mueller

These two urban-nesting species are in decline, creating an opportunity for nontraditional urban monitoring and novel conservation actions. Working with 17 cooperators in July and August, the Observatory has been running monitoring routes within Milwaukee and surrounding communities (all inside Milwaukee County’s boundaries).

In addition to counting swifts and nighthawks, we have been making fascinating behavioral observations that provide insights into swift ecology unknown to many birders. These include observations of foraging extremely high above ground to exploit ephemeral insect prey sources; flight and nesting behavior that is incompletely described in some of the literature; and breeding behavior that can be utilized by the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. More results will be reported this autumn.

Swift 1Swift 2

Chimney Swifts and nest (Photos, J. McCulloch [left]; I. Mitchell, N. Mitchell, and N. Barnett.)