Chimney Swifts in Allegany State Park
One of my joys of being around Allegany State Park is watching the Chimney Swifts entering chimneys around the Administration Building during dusk hours. These unique birds look almost like flying cigars and are remarkable fliers. You typically hear them chattering before you ever get a chance to see them. Chimney Swifts are constantly flying throughout the day in search of food and can travel long distances. They will roost and nest in chimneys and are historically known to use the hollow trees in the forest for nesting. I sometimes wonder if they are not still doing this in some areas.
During the spring and fall migration period, the Chimney Swift can be very social birds and will migrate together in a large group (more so during the fall). During the breeding season the literature states that they are no longer social and will not nest together. I have found multiple nests that have fallen down the chimney and I am starting to believe this belief is not 100% accurate. Any evening during the summer you can easily find 25-50 individuals entering the chimneys around the Administration Building. I have observed many individuals entering the chimneys during daylight hours as if they were nest building, incubating or feeding young, etc. . . . Something unique is happening here that others are not observing anywhere else.
A Chimney Swift nest that I found!
When building the nest . . . . the Chimney Swift will breaking off some small twigs and use their saliva to glue the nest together. Incubation of the eggs takes almost three weeks and then another two-three weeks before the nestlings fledge. I have only found one (maybe two) dead fledglings that have fallen down the chimney and couldn’t return to the nest. Typically the only time that I find a swift that has fallen down the chimney is in the early spring once they first arrive. I will pull them out of the chimney (obviously band them) and then set them free. Only two individuals that have banded (due to falling) were after second year birds and almost always I find these individuals as a second year bird (meaning they were born the previous summer).
All summer I wanted to do a post on these great birds and just yesterday I started worrying that they have moved south already. So, I decided to head over to the Park Restaurant to get my dinner and then ate my taco salad outside where I waited for the swifts to arrive. I was not disappointed with what I estimated being around 150 individuals entering our two large chimneys.
Video of some Swifts entering the Chimney!
As you can see in the video, the swifts were all circling around the chimney and then begin to drop down into the chimney . . . . but quickly turn (before entering) and then join the group who were still circling overhead. The video does show a few individuals dropping down into the chimney (they are fun to watch drop) but most others wait till the last second to enter. It was interesting reviewing the 300+ pictures I took, where I found a few photos with a dragonfly species flying with the Chimney Swifts. It is always fun finding things you would never expect to find.
It is only a matter of time till they disappear from Allegany area and it is very possible that some of these guys could be going as far as the Rain Forest of Peru before returning back the following summer. You can be sure that I will be here waiting for their return.