Chimney SwiftWith the arrival of the solstice, comes the arrival of eggs being laid in nests. Chimney Swifts have been in high gear nest building lately, after a slow start to their breeding season. Here is a primer on what has been, and will be, happening inside all of those nest chimneys which you have been monitoring this year.

Renowned Chimney Swift experts, Paul and Georgean Kyle, have published the bible “Chimney Swifts – America’s Mysterious Birds above the Fireplace” (2005;,1868.aspx). By using video cameras in artificial nest towers located in Texas, the Kyle’s have been able to witness the usually hidden activity which goes on below the chimney rim. Much of the following is based on the Kyle’s work. However, the made-in-Manitoba details come from St Adolphe, where monitoring data have been collected from five nest sites since 2007 (see the Stewart & Stewart primary publication links on our MCSI website:

In Manitoba, dead twigs from deciduous tree and ornamental shrub species, such as Manitoba Maple, Green Ash, and Japanese Maple, are used commonly for constructing nests. Chimney Swifts telegraph their collection missions with repetitive flights toward dead branches which have small diameter twigs at the ends. The swifts may be seen “hovering” at branch ends or you may notice branches bouncing after a swift has flown closely by. Swifts use their feet to break off a twig, then transfer the twig to their beak before flying into a nearby nest site.

Using sticky saliva, which is produced in abundance from the salivary glands at this time of year, Chimney Swifts fasten the twigs onto the rough, vertical surface of their nest site. Approximately 265 twigs form the cup-shaped nest which could sit easily in the palm of your hand; there is no fire hazard. The nest is well below the chimney rim to protect the future nestlings from sun, gain maximum protection from rain, and take advantage of the thermal benefits of being enclosed by a building.

How long does it take to make a nest? You will read general comments in species accounts; Cink and Collins, who authored the Chimney Swift chapter in The Birds of North America (published in 2002), say that it takes 18 days, on average, to build a nest but it can take up to 30 days to complete. The Kyle’s found breeding pairs bring in 8-12 twigs to the nest site daily. Simple math suggests that 22-33 days would be required to finish making a 265 twig nest. It is not quite that simple.

Nest building occurs in two stages – the “startup” phase and the “finishing” phase. After spring arrival at their nest site, both adults bring in twigs and start the sticky, construction process. Approximately 7 days later, the newly created nest ledge can accommodate an egg. The time it takes to achieve this milestone depends on whether the pair brings in fewer or greater numbers of twigs each day. Once the ledge is made, the female will produce an egg, every other day, until a clutch of 2-7 eggs has been laid. Amazingly, the breeding pair continues to build their nest around the eggs. This finishing phase is precarious and the accidental loss of eggs, which have been inadvertently nudged over the edge, does happen! Twig placement also continues through the next stage of nesting, the incubation of the eggs. Incubation begins with the second last egg laid and continues for 18-21 days.

So, you get the idea that there is variation in the total length of nest building as it is intimately linked to the onset of egg laying, final clutch size, and the duration of incubation. However, one thing is certain. Once the eggs hatch, all nest building stops and the task of feeding the juveniles becomes the top priority.

Back to St Adolphe this spring…no breeding pairs had started incubating eggs by June 18th. However, on the morning of June 20, the Church pair were at the incubation stage. How do I know? As there are no video cameras inside the five nest sites, I have to let the swift’s behaviour “tell me” what they are doing…

Daytime monitoring data helps decode the Chimney Swift activity inside the nest site. The frequency, and sequence, of entries and exits can identify the various stages of nesting (Stewart and Stewart, 2010).

During nest building, the breeding pair may be out of the chimney together or they may be inside together. You could see 2 consecutive entries or 2 consecutive exits. Sometimes, just one adult is in the chimney. You may see a closely flying pair approach the chimney – 1 swift will drop in while it’s partner flies off; after a time lag, a single exit will ensue. The duration spent inside the chimney by an individual can vary between 1 and 70 minutes, while the between-visit intervals can range from 1 to 50 minutes.

The activity at a nest site slows down during incubation and is more predictable. Incubation is a shared duty too and one adult usually is in the chimney covering the eggs. However, eggs may be unattended briefly during the day or as both adults make final feeding excursions just before roosting for the night. Admittedly, it is a deadly boring stage of nesting to monitor! Typically, partners will exchange their places on the eggs once per hour. That means a whole lot of rim-staring to see a quick, silent entry and an equally silent exit made within a couple of minutes.

Now is the time to start watching for the shift between nest building behaviour to incubation exchanges by partners. Progress reports of the St Adolphe flock will help guide the interpretation of activity at your nest sites. Stay tuned for updates!

Many thanks to Dave Lavigne ( for providing the stunning photos of Goderich, ON, Chimney Swifts and to Rob Stewart, who photographed the 2015 Brodeur Bros. nest.

CHIMNEY SWIFTS HOVERING NEAR DEAD BRANCHES – “I noticed a few birds flying into a tree…Sometimes they would hover, in typical swift style (meaning, they hovered for about 5 microseconds!). As you can see, the top of this tree is dead, and I wondered if they were looking for twigs? Didn’t see any actually take one..)”

Swifts near dead branches


Swift with twig


MCSI 2016 - BRODEUR BROS 2015 NEST ROB front view DSCN3674
Chimney Swift Nest, St Adolphe MB 

Barb Stewart
St. Adolphe Monitor & MCSI Steering Committee Initiative Member



You’re invited to a viewing on Monday!

For the past 3 years, Assiniboine School in St James has been the place to see Chimney Swifts in Manitoba. With roosting numbers upwards of 150 birds, it provides a spectacle for anyone with even a vague interest in swifts. Although numbers have been dropping since the peak earlier this spring, we are inviting anyone interested to join the local volunteer team plus Frank our webmaster, Steering Committee members Rob and Barb Stewart and Outreach Coordinator Tim to watch the birds enter for the night on Monday evening, June 20 th, beginning at 8:40. We will meet outside the school on Winston Road. Please bring a chair or blanket to sit on, plus anything you need to keep comfortable. There will also be opportunities to ask any of your burning swift questions.
And just to whet your appetite, if you haven’t already, please take a look at the video posted from the school recently:
Tim Poole

Some June Monitoring Results



MCSI sends a hearty thank you out to all of the volunteer monitors who participated in the 2016 National Roost Monitoring Program. We are fortunate to have many of you continue to monitoring roost and nest sites through the summer months. We also are lucky to have people take the time to report their opportunistic observations – it is appreciated very much. Here is the mid-June update of your activities…

1. In Winnipeg, Jessica spotted a pair of swifts flying north into the exchange district from McDermot and Waterfront, around noon on June 1.

1. Nathalie and Jacques had 2 swifts roost at their St Joseph St site in St Boniface; a lot of aerial activity was seen over and behind the chimney.

2. Summer, at an apartment building in Fort Rouge, enjoyed watching 10 swifts – 5 of them roosted.

3. Chris, at Foodfare in Wolseley, saw 3 flying swifts but none entered the chimney.

4. David, Adolf, Beth, Peter & Elsie monitored several St James sites: 1 swift entered the Kings chimney; 0 used the Carillon site; and the evening was made observing 142+ swifts enter the Assiniboine School roost.

5. In St Jean Baptiste, Luc greeted the resident pair which continues to use the church nest site.

6. Tim and Gillian did a wholesale blitz in Souris. Five swifts entered Murphy’s Irish Pub while a single swift was seen dropping into the Chocolate Shop Café east chimney. Other chimneys in their lines-of-sight were kept in view with positive results; nominally, 1 swift entered St Paul’s United Church, 1 entered the White House private residence, 1-2 entered the Hillcrest Museum east chimney, and 1-2 entered the Hillcrest Museum west chimney. Thanks Tim and Gillian for spending a very rewarding evening in a town where we have no regular monitors!
1. Jessica spotted a pair passing overhead around Traverse and Bertrand (just east of St Boniface hospital) on June 3.

2. On June 5, Robert documented a late morning entry at the Selkirk Infirmary; nest site status was confirmed.

1. David, at his La Broquerie church site, had 5 swifts roost for the night. Interestingly, the second last bird to roost had many ‘near miss’ fly-bys – this is a sign of a bird which is unfamiliar with the chimney. The chimney was a successful nest site last year; sometimes you get 1-2 helper birds share some of the work which could partially explain >2 swifts being in the chimney. Given that we have had a late migration this year, these “extras” could be swifts which will continue to pass through the area. We appreciate David’s season-long monitoring approach, so hopefully, we will get an update on his birds…

2. Ken and Jan had 10 roost in Dauphin; the numbers have plummeted since the peak of 49 peak on May 29. The major dispersal occurred beyond June 2, which is likely too late for successful breeding if adults were involved. No pesky mosquitoes were noted.

3. Nathalie and Jacques, back at 690 St Joseph St, finished the NRMP season with 2 swifts roosting in their site.

4. Tim got skunked again at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre. He noted “Another blank last night. There were 4 birds on the wing further south. They disappeared before 9pm, either into chimneys in Beresford or to a mystery location further south. There was a Peregrine flying over at 9:22. Does seem that local numbers are down this year, certainly I recorded more activity in the South Osborne area in 2015.” So even our fearless coordinator has been inflicted with the “big zero” evening.

5. Success was found over on Academy Rd in River Heights. Derek followed the movements of a group of 3 and another group of 4 or 5 swifts – just at curfew 1 swift entered, then 2 more went down at 10:06 PM. Elsewhere, there were late arrivals and unaccounted for birds at the end of monitoring sessions. Derek is going to continue sleuthing for another active chimney site in the area. Thanks for going the extra distance Derek!

6. Gord monitored Trinity Church in Portage. Anther fortuitous discovery was made “It was a calm, clear and cool evening and the number of swifts have dropped by at least half, of which 5 were seen in the air at one time and one went into Trinity Church chimney #1. I suspected that some were roosting in the second chimney on Trinity Church and I can now confirm that this is the case. This is the first year that I have ever seen swifts use chimney #2 which has a clay-lined cap.” Gord has monitored the local swifts for 10 years and his experience shows that new things keep happening – even at old sites. With swifts, expect the unexpected! It is important to note that Chimney #2 is 10′ away from Chimney #1. The Kyle’s, who are Chimney Swift experts living in Texas, say that 10′ is the minimum acceptable distance between active nest chimneys; anything less causes competition between breeding pairs.

7. Jane Macdonald watching Assiniboine Links got skunked all season. Again. Last year, Jane was on special assignment at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory chimney and no swifts appeared. Jane, your patience and perseverance through all of this has been appreciated. Next year we will point you towards a productive chimney!

8. Marshall, at Riverside Billiards in St Vital, was another member of the Skunk Club.

9. Better news came in from Foodfare, in Wolseley, where Chris had daytime entry/exit events and at least 1, if not 2, swifts roosting for the night.

10. Two other Wolseley sites were active – Christian had 2 entries at the Fleetwood Apt and Colin had 2 in at his Evanson St apartment building.

11. Jessica spent the season at Springs Christian Academy, in St Boniface, where 2 swifts roosted each of the four NRMP nights. However, no daytime activity has occurred in June. Generally, the swifts are late getting their nests started this season so some activity may have begun after June 6.

12. Cam and Diann recorded 2 swifts roosting in the Lac Du Bonnet Physiotherapy site, 0 at Casey’s, and again, 1 was on the wing at the end of the observation period.

13. Anna, Adolf, Don, Jake, Beth, and David covered the St James chimneys – they noted: 2 in the Carillon, 3 in Kings, and 122+ at Assiniboine School with at least 8 arriving after the official end of the observation period. Entries of after-curfew swifts around the province this spring are blowing our “end times” away…

14. The Selkirk Birders Club were out in force: Winona had 2 entries at the Merchants Hotel; similarly, Sharon and Carol had 2 in the Manitoba Ave chimney; over at the hospital grounds, Gerald and Robert noted 2 entries at the Yellow Brick chimney; Gerald and Robert recorded 25 at the Large Stack – yes, more swifts came in after the end of the roosting hour period and 1 was unaccounted for. The maximum count for the Large Stack was on NRMP-1 (33 roosting) so we don’t know if the true season maxima came before May 25. At the Infirmary site, Robert saw strong evidence of nest building but had 1 roosting swift; it is likely that 1 swift was inside the chimney at the beginning of the observation period but it didn’t get “picked up” due to the sequence of entries/exits.

15. In St Jean Baptiste, Luc observed one exit then 2 swifts entered the church chimney for the night. Luc saw 4 in the air, so again, the unaccounted for swifts suggest that more active habitat needs to be located.

16. Back in Winnipeg, John, at his William St site, had 1 in and 3 in the air (on June 2 four went in and 5 were in the air), so yet another round of unaccounted for swifts at bedtime occurred.

17. Margaret and Millie, in Brandon, toughed out a chilly 16 C night – the forecast low was 5 C. No daytime activity was seen but 2 swifts roosted for the night.

18. Lucy has been monitoring the St Norbert Parish Church for all 4 NRMP nights. Not only was there no activity in the chimney, Lucy had no aerial observations either. This site looked like a sure thing when Blaire identified it last summer. Lucy, thanks for joining in this year and I can only explain your empty skies with the curse of new recruits!

19. The St Adolphe nest sites were monitored with mixed results: breeding pairs were active at the Church, where Frank and Ken were watching, and at NE Club Amical where Kathy and Rob held vigil by the chimney sides. No swifts came into the SE Club Amical chimney. At Brodeur Bros, Jacquie had a single roosting swift and at Main St., I also had a single roosting swift. So, only 2 of the 5 nest sites had pairs onsite – the poorest start to the breeding season since 2007!






1. In Wasagaming, Ken observed 5 swifts flying over the Visitor’s Centre on June 7; 2 swifts entered the chimney at 9:25 AM. This chimney has been a successful nest site in previous years.

2. On the evening of June 7, Cal was watching the Trinity United Church in Portage where 10 swifts were flying about; 3 roosted in the original south chimney and 7 were unaccounted for at the end of the session. The good question followed “this means nearly 1/3 of the sightings ended up in that chimney but where did the others go?”

3. Also on June 7, Jake spotted 2 swifts dropping into the 100 Roslyn chimney which he discovered last summer.

4. Stephen reported horticulture staff seeing swifts “checking out the big conservatory chimney in Assiniboine Park” on June 7 during the day.

5. Tim had better luck, between the bridge at Donald and Confusion Corner, on June 7 when he saw 6-12 swifts.

6. Frank and Jacquie took to the road again on June 9 – down in Otterburne, at Providence College, they saw 5 in the air and could account for 4 roosting birds. ALL of the final entries for the night occurred BEFORE the roosting hour: 2 in the chimney near bell tower; 2 in the Large Chimney (also a daytime exit which suggests a nest site); and 0 in the Skinny Chimney. Remember the approach about expecting the unexpected?!

7. ANOTHER NEW SELKIRK SITE was identified on June 10 by Winona. She saw 3 swifts flying about, then enter, the East Selkirk Hydro Stack. Thanks Winona for identifying the fifth new site in 2016! Gerald had checked this site out in previous years when no swifts were using it.

8. The numbers of swifts grew in Wasagaming. On June 9, Ken saw 8 flying in the vicinity of the Visitor’s Centre – 1 entry was made at 1:32 PM, a nesting attempt is definitely underway. Ken also observed 3, possibly 4, Chimney Swifts at the ski hill at 6:30 AM. We appreciate those long hours of swift watching that you put in for us Ken!

9. Garry’s good news is that the Watt St site continues to be active – two entry/exit cycles were see on June 11.
10. David, Beth, and Adolf took on the St James sites again on June 12: nothing entered the King’s site; 1 roosted at the Carillon; and 107 swifts went into Assiniboine School for the night. We really value the continued eyes on the big roost site as it informs us about arrival and dispersal dynamics. Thanks to you all for carrying on!

11. We welcome sightings from a new monitor, Joel, in The Pas – on June 10 he saw 1 swift north of the railway station; on June 13, 1 swift was seen flying over the provincial building across the street from the railway station; also on June 13, Joel heard a swift over the junction of Hazlewood/Fisher Avenue -a few minutes later, 2 swifts were seen flying over 5th Street and Larose (one being the same bird?) which is the area where Joel had reported a sighting on May 23. Joel notes “There are lots of old brick chimneys in the older parts of town, including a couple of large structures by the hospital that hold potential.” All the best for your sleuthing for habitat!

12. Leon, a longstanding volunteer in St Adolphe, saw 2 swifts drop into the SE Club Amical chimney at 7:15 AM on June 14; I saw a pair use the chimney later in the morning, so new birds are in town. There was also a pair using Brodeur Bros. chimney during the daytime on June 14 – the first time this season when 2 swifts have been noted to be onsite. The well established pairs continue nest building at the NE Club Amical and Church chimneys. The Main St residence was unused on June 14; the community total was 8 compared to 6 seen on the evening of June 6.

The news of late arrivals, and the possible redistribution of Chimney Swifts between nest sites in St Adolphe, adds to the season trend of late-roosting birds and many unaccounted for individuals at the end of the roosting hour. The spring migration has been unusual this year in many respects.

775f6-chimneyswiftykgIt is worth repeating our monitoring mantra – look up, look fast, anytime, and everywhere! Chimney Swifts are dynamic, gregarious, speedy birds. Their behaviour can be difficult to predict and challenging to interpret. To help understand the dynamics of Chimney Swifts in Manitoba, we build a framework of knowledge and fill it with the “puzzle pieces” you provide. ALL of your data from monitoring sessions and opportunistic observations is of value!

Again, thanks to all of our citizen scientist volunteers who participated in monitoring this spring. As we move into summer shortly, the solstice being at hand, keep in touch with us as your Chimney Swift sightings and monitoring sessions unfold…happy birding to you all!

Barb for the MCSI team – Frank (webmaster), Tim (coordinator), Christian, Ron, Neil, Lewis, Ken, Nicole, and Rob (steering committee members).



This just in…

Photo by David Lavigne

As we head towards the FINAL NIGHT for the 2016 National Roost Monitoring Program (NRMP) session on MONDAY, JUNE 6, we have an update of the NRMP-3 results and reports of Chimney Swifts monitoring done before, and in-between, the NRMP nights. Here is what happened:

A. Prior to the start of NRMP, Marshall made an important discovery of 2 swifts entering 378 Academy on May 24; this chimney had a flip-flopping open/closed/open-but-modified status. The swifts confirm the chimney is open for 2016.
B. Between NRMP-1 (May 25) and NRMP-2 (May 29):
David saw a mid-morning entry into Assiniboine School on May 28. One other Chimney Swift was flying about the rim. It appears that a breeding pair was scouting out the location.
C. More NRMP-2 (May 29) reports winged in:
David, Adolf, Anna, Beth, Wolfgang, Irene, Luke, John, Kim counted 114+ Chimney Swifts entering the roost at Assiniboine School. It was very difficult to enumerate large clumps of swifts, even with video assistance.
David, Adolf also noted 2 entries at the Carillon site and 2 entries (plus a possible exit) and King’s Theatre. The St. James area is well monitored by an ever-growing group of volunteers. I understand the suggestion of a dessert bar may entice more recruits for Monday
D. Between NRMP-2 (May 29) and NRMP-3 (June 2):

Marshall documented 2 roosting hour entries at Lanark Gardens in River Heights on May 31.
Cal was on a recon mission in Brandon on June 1. He found 7 swifts in the area near 13th St and Louise Ave on June 1. Active sites in that area need to be identified.
E. NRMP-3 (June 2) Results:
1. A “teachable moment” played out in Dauphin. Ken & Jan were ready for the standard protocol but they wisely adjusted their monitoring session based on the real scenario which played out. Sunset was 9:47 PM, so the end of monitoring was to be 10:17 PM. For most of the evening, there were no swifts to be seen. At the crack of curfew, “there was chittering overhead and birds flying everywhere, over the chimney, down the chimney, past the chimney, flying overhead, disappearing and reappearing. In the end we stopped as we could not see anymore if the bird went down or past.” Ken & Jan noted the first entry = 10:22 PM and ended their counts at 10:30 PM – 13 minutes beyond the standard session – after ~38 swifts entered for the night.
If there is an interesting event, document everything you see and watch the event through to completion. We can “filter” the data afterwards as necessary. It is impossible to recreate datasets from memory and special moments deserve to be described as accurately as possible.
2. It was also quiet in St. Adolphe through the evening. Occasionally a group size of 5 appeared. The final headcount in town was 5 swifts, a decrease of 1 from NRMP-2. The partitioning between sites was:

Kathy and Rob at Club Amical: SE Club = 0; NE Club = 2 but there was no activity prior to the roosting entries;
Jacquie at Brodeur Bros. saw entries/exits, but had no roosting swifts;
Lewis, Frank, and Ken at the Church: 2 swifts roosted and, again, there was no activity prior to the roosting entries;
Barb at Main St. had 1 swift arrive a minute before curfew and it was likely the Brodeur Bros. swift that exited just prior to the end of the viewing session.
The priority of the swifts was feeding. After two days of cold, rainy weather, nest building was a lower priority. The start of the breeding season has been challenging as June 4 is the “line in the sand” date for a breeding pair to start a nesting attempt with a chance to succeed (based on 9 years of tracking 5 nest sites in St. Adolphe).
3. Gerald, in Selkirk, seized the moment to spread the word about the wings in the local chimneys…”a set of movie trailers parked by the Infirmary Chimney in preparation for filming Friday. I briefed the security guard on what we were doing. He knew about Barn Swallows but not about swifts. So I told him to look for cigars with wings around9:00 PM…At the end after 10:00 PM I checked with the guard and he was thrilled to have seen them flying around…” Maybe there is some Hollywood star looking upward for swifts dropping downward. That was a great outreach opportunity to take advantage of Gerald!
As for the headcounts in town:
Winona watched the Merchants chimney where 3 swifts roosted;
Gerald and Carol had 2 early entries at the Infirmary;

Gerald and Carol then saw 2 entries at the 241 Manitoba site;
Carol, Gerald, Robert, Dorothy & James viewed the Yellow Brick chimney where there was 1 early entry followed by 2 late entries;
Carol, Gerald, Robert, Dorothy & James had a final roosting count of 24; most swifts were very late arriving and 1 was on the wing when observations ended.
The total in town for the night was 35 = 2 more than NRMP-1 and 5 more than NRMP-2.
4. David in La Broquerie also had 2 swifts arrive at the crack of curfew; a group of 3 had been observed and 1 mayhave slipped into chimney with a stealthy entrance.
5. We were fortunate to have the Burrowing Owl folks do a blitz in Melita. Three sites were covered by Alex, Jessica, and Aidan and all were occupied. A pair used the Historical Society Museum chimney; a single swift was present at the Legion; and a pair also entered the Health Centre. Details to follow…
6. Tim and Gillian did a similar blitz in Souris – details are pending but active sites were observed.
7. Derek, who has been in River Heights at a potential new site, spent 2 hours of monitoring (thanks for the extra effort!), had 0 entries, but Chimney Swifts were  tantalizingly close a block north. Tracking continues…
8. John, at a new William St. site, had 4 entries, many sightings, and a bonus round with a Common Nighthawk. Congratulations John on adding a new active site to our database!
9. Marshall got skunked at the Christ the King Church in St. Vital; 0 swifts were seen.
10. Two Lac Du Bonnet sites were monitored by Cam and Diann. They noted 3 swifts in the air but only 2 roosted at the Physiotherapy site. Theirs adds to the many reports off unaccounted for Chimney Swifts in air at the end of a monitoring session.
11. Out west in Brandon, Margaret and Millie saw 2 roosting entries. Similar to Frank, Lewis, and Ken at the St. Adolphe Church, the Brandon site is down to a pair of swifts compared to the NRMP-2 count of 3.
F. Lastly, here are the reports for sightings made after NRMP-3 (June 2):
A special shout-out goes out to Jacquie and Frank who undertook a recon mission to Clearwater on June 3. They spent 3 hours monitoring the Harvest Moon site and saw no swifts. They also did some outreach work and talked with locals about historical observations. Thanks so much for taking on this rural trek!
Also on June 3, in the early morning, Liis heard and saw up to 3 Chimney Swifts at two different locations in Old St. Boniface. Mid-morning, the characteristic chittering of swifts alerted Liis, who was now in Norwood around Horace St. and Kenny Ave.; 3 birds eventually were spotted between Horace and Marion St.
MCSI always appreciates reports of opportunistic sightings as it helps us track new habitat!
Al & Barb went to watch the Assiniboine School roost on the evening of June 4 – they watched 109 Chimney Swifts enter between 10:00 – 10:10 PM. Again, some swifts entered past the “1/2 after sunset” curfew (sunset was ~ 9:31 in Winnipeg).
2320e-thank_you_pinned_noteTHANKS everyone for participating in the national initiative! All the best for the NRMP season finale on Monday, June 6th. Here are a few things to think about as you stare at the chimney rim:
HAS ANYBODY BEEN SMACKING MOSQUITOES? The abundance of this yummy food item seems very low so far this year.
DO YOU HAVE CHIMNEY SWIFTS FLYING AROUND AFTER THE END OF THE OBSERVATION PERIOD? Sometimes we cannot account for all the birds seen in the air before darkness shrouds the chimney tops.
ARE YOUR SWIFTS ENTERING EARLY OR LATE IN THE OBSERVATION PERIOD? Cold and rain can affect the behaviour of your swifts. If the birds are hungry, feeding may be a higher priority than nest building for example. Later in the summer, heat waves coupled with strong winds can also limit “aerial plankton” = the insects in the air which the swifts feed on; this may influence the feeding rates of young at nest sites.
DO YOU WANT A CHIMNEY SWIFT FIX AFTER THE NRMP FINISHES? If so, we would love to have you continue tracking the abundance/dispersal of swifts from roost sites and monitoring the breeding success at nest sites. Any opportunistic observations and monitoring session results you are able to provide will help us protect habitat and understand the biology of Chimney Swifts in Manitoba. We have accomplished and learned a lot but need to achieve more!
–Barb Stewart

SK, in between, and NRMP-2 updates

3393081897_e859d2eb40Our update starts with a special shoutout to Gord and Louise who made a special recon trip to Estevan, SK. Gord is an experienced monitor who can spot swifts, hear swifts, and pick out potential sites with ease. After the 4.5 hour trip from Portage La Prairie, 5 Chimney Swifts obliged with an appearance over Main St., Estevan. The birds were flying quite low for mid-day. Six potential roost/nest sites were identified and the information has been passed along to Becky Magnus, the acting coordinator of SCSI ( Chimney Swifts in the prairie provinces are well served by Gord and Louise’s activities – thanks for all you do! If anyone can provide historical or recent information about Saskatchewan Chimney Swifts, get in touch with Becky.

Back in Manitoba, we have had a lot of reports for May outside of the NRMP dates. Here is a summary of opportunistic observations and monitoring reports:

  • John has discovered a new site on William Ave which hosted 3 Chimney Swifts. Great sleuthing in finding this chimney!
  • Laurie has reported in from St Francois Xavier; she enjoys nightly viewings of Chimney Swifts flying over her home. Hopefully, an active site can be tracked down in the area.
  • Another new enthusiast, Garry, has confirmed that a 2015-discovered East Kildonan site is active again this year with a pair of Chimney Swifts.
  • Simone has observed swifts in the area of Scotia St. at Belmont.
  • Liis has observed a swift around a St Joseph Ave site that has not been monitored for several years.
  • Larry has caught sight of swifts SE of River and Osborne.
  • Tim had a fortuitous sighting of 2 swifts dropping into a 2015-discovered Fort Rouge chimney late one morning. It was another moment to reinforce the “you never know when, you never know where” activity of swifts. “Head’s up, eyes to the sky” rules during the monitoring season!

MCSI is fortunate to have returning volunteers and new monitors observing many chimneys. NRMP-2 weather was very obliging and a lot of early reports have come in:

  • Ken, in Dauphin, had 49 roosting swifts – up from 29 on NRMP-1.
  • Gord, in Portage, saw 9 in the air and 2 entered the Trinity United Church. This has been a successful nest site in previous years.
  • Good news came in from La Broquerie – David saw 3 Chimney Swifts enter the church with minutes left in the monitoring period.
  • Chris, in the Wolseley neighbourhood of Winnipeg, witnessed a classic meteoric entry. Beyond the “head’s up, eyes to the sky” rule, we should add the “don’t blink” caveat!
  • Margaret and Millie in Brandon, longstanding supporters of the program, had 3 Chimney Swifts roost. In 2015, a successful nesting attempt was tracked all season long through to fledging and migration. Hopefully, 2016 is another good year for Margaret, Millie, and the Brandon swifts.
  • Derek is tracking the movements of a flock near Oak St. in River Heights, Winnipeg. A new site is being monitored now with the hopes of documenting activity.
  • Yvonne is also monitoring a new Fort Rouge site which holds promise – nothing in so far, but occupancy can change quickly at this time of the year.
    In St Jean Baptise, Luc has monitored on both NRMP-1, -2 dates and 2 swifts entered each night. This is excellent news as the top layers of the chimney were removed during last fall’s renovation/repair as part of the Swift Champion program. It is important feedback from the swifts that they consider the lower chimney height acceptable for use.
  • In St. Adolphe, all 5 nest sites were monitored. Six Chimney Swifts have been in town since the long weekend and they partitioned themselves as:

-SE Club Amical = 0; NE Club Amical = 2 – Kathy and Rob were onsite.
-Brodeur Bros. = 0; Jacquie and Roberta noted an entry/exit which seemed to be a swift checking out the chimney quickly.
-Church = 3 ; Lewis and Ken helped Frank break the curse of never seeing the most Chimney Swifts in one night (a good omen for ’16!)
-Main St = 1; Barb is hopeful that a local redistribution of swifts will result in a breeding pair taking up residence.


  • In Selkirk, the bird club was out in force and all the known sites in town were monitored – all were occupied:

-Winona note 3 roosting birds at the Merchants Hotel.
-Gerald saw 2 swifts at 241 Manitoba Ave.
-Robert recorded 2 entries at the Infirmary Chimney.
-Carol, Bonnie, and Gerald saw 1 entry at the Yellow Brick site.
Carol, Bonnie, and Gerald also had a direct view of the Large Stack where 25 entries and 3 exits occurred. When you adjust for exits made during the monitoring session, a total of 22 swifts roosted for the night. Interestingly, the NRMP-1 total was 33 in only the large stack and NRMP-2 total = 30 in town. Some dispersal – locally and beyond – seemed to have taken place between May 25 and 29.

look_upThe weather has not established a positive cadence yet. Cold, rainy weather enveloped the province again after NRMP-2 and is persisting through June 1. The promise of a sunny night for NRMP-3 THURSDAY, JUNE 2 is with us though. Dauphin, Brandon, Portage La Prairie, Pine Falls, Steinbach, and Winnipeg areas will emerge as a sunny day after a cold, wet night. It will be interesting to see if migrants have been arriving during this challenging feeding weather and how Chimney Swifts are partitioning themselves at nest sites…

READ ALL ABOUT IT!  In case you missed the article in last weekend’s Free Press, you might want to check In Conversation with Tim Poole

We look forward to hearing from you after Thursday night’s session,

Barb for the MCSI team: webmaster – Frank Machovec; Habitat Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator – Tim Poole; Steering Committee Members – Christian Artuso, Ron Bazin, Neil Butchard, Lewis Cocks, Ken De Smet, Nicole Firlotte, and Rob Stewart.