A chimney full of swifts

Chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica)

The chimney swift is a small dark-coloured bird, often described as a “cigar with wings” that flies like a bat and makes loud twittering calls. Swifts belong to a group of birds called “aerial insectivores” because they spend most of their time in flight, catching and eating flying insects.

A new home at Goldie Mill

In 2011, the Wyndham Arts Building in Guelph, a known Chimney Swift roost, was slated for demolition. The City of Guelph worked with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to create the swifts a new home inside the 90-foot tall Goldie Mill chimney, which was built in 1966 and is protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. To open this chimney for swift habitat, the steel grill at the top was removed and the bottom door was sealed to reduce drafts. The swifts have quickly made this site a new home!

Home is where the hearth is

As their name implies, chimney swifts make their homes in chimneys where they rest and raise their young, using their saliva as glue to stick their nests to the inside of a chimney. Only one tiny nest is ever built inside a chimney.

A swift decline

Across Canada, Chimney Swift populations have decreased by as much as 95 per cent. While the causes of the decline are currently unknown, the most likely causes are changes in insect populations from pesticide use and habitat loss.

How you can help

  • Hold off on chimney maintenance from May to September
  • Keep your chimney open for swifts
  • Submit sightings to eBird.ca or Bird Studies Canada’s Ontario SwiftWatch program by visiting birdscanada.org or emailing ontarioswiftwatch@birdscanada.org