The Chimney Swift
Roger Tory Peterson in his first edition of his Field Guide to the Birds describes the Chimney Swift as looking like a cigar with wings. The head is small, the tail long and the wings are long and boomerang like. Others have called this the Chimney Sweep, as it constantly sweeps the skies spending virtually all its life in the air in pursuit of food. Swifts are well named; they can rival a stooping falcon in terms of speed. I have never seen one perched, their feet are weak but their claws are strong and sharp allowing them to hang on to smooth surfaces or chimney walls. The Chimney Swift is fairly common in our area, nesting mostly in chimneys; their call is a series of chattering notes.
At Mount Auburn you can find them from the first week of May right up until the first weeks of September. August is the best month for seeing large numbers of swifts at the Cemetery; their migration pattern is very similar to that of the Common Nighthawk. On our Nighthawk watches we often see 50-100 swifts circling and buzzing us on Washington Tower. Often at this time we may experience a swarm of flying ants and when this happens the swift show from the tower is awesome!
*Photo of Chimney Swifts by Jeremiah Trimble.
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