Help us to help one of Alabama’s most charismatic urban birds
Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) are a common sight in the skies of Alabama from March through October. The birds breed here, in chimneys, one pair per stack, and then gather in large roosting flocks known as “swiftnados” during their fall migration. When not on their nests or roosting at night, swifts spend literally all their time flying—they can’t perch on branches or on the ground like other birds, and instead have specially adapted feet for clinging to vertical surfaces like the insides of chimneys. Historically, this species would have nested and roosted inside hollow trees or in caves, but as a wave of European settlement removed much of Alabama’s old-growth forest during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, swifts adapted to newly constructed chimneys as a place to raise their young.
Unfortunately, chimneys are becoming rarer in North American cities, where new development and post-industrial economic changes are remaking the urban landscape. In response, Alabama Audubon is working to construct a series of artificial chimney swift nesting towers in Birmingham and throughout Alabama, key stopover areas for swifts on the Mississippi Flyway migration route.
The map below shows locations of chimney swift nest towers in the state. Click on a pin to learn more about a specific tower.
Interested in seeing these birds in action?
Join us for our annual Swift Night Out events—your chance to see hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of roosting swifts downtown. Visit our events page to find out more.
Video by Matthew Grcic. Footage © Alabama Audubon 2021. Music: “Void” by Pedro Santiago.
Want to do even more to help?
Call or mail your representative, city council, or others you think should be made aware about swifts and the issues they face. Click here for a form letter—these are some guidelines, but please personalize with what swifts mean to you!
Join the Alabama SwiftWatch monitoring project!
Check out our volunteer page here to learn more about how you can help our community science efforts monitoring active chimney swift roosts throughout the state, or email our Science and Conservation Director.
Learn more about swifts! In this hour-long course, our Science & Conservation Director, Dr. Lianne Koczur, discusses the general ecology of chimney swifts, threats that the species faces, and conservation efforts for swifts here in Alabama. She also gives information about the Alabama SwiftWatch community science program—why we started it, how you can participate, and the data we have collected so far.
Check out this swift tower funded by one of our Education MiniGrants at Birmingham-Southern College’s Southern Environmental Center!
- What to do if a swift has fallen down your chimney: wildlifecenter.org/chimney-swifts-neighbors
Check out our recent press coverage:
- 30 September 2021—WBMR, The Morning Blend with Reg and Will: Swift Night Out
- 8 September 2021—AL.com: Alabama Audubon: Witness a Swiftnado
- 11 June 2020—Troy Public Radio’s In Focus: Alabama Audubon and Bird Conservation
- 1 November 2019—Auburn University at Montgomery: Biology Lecturer Awarded Grant to Construct Chimney Swift Tower at Auburn University at Montgomery
- 31 October 2019—The Associated Press: Fake Chimneys for Birds That Need Vertical Hollows to Rest
- 18 September 2019—CBS 42: Weather Wednesday: The Chimney Swift
- 24 October 2018—WBHM: Birmingham Development Threatens Chimney Swift Habitat
- 3 October 2018—ABC 33/40: Talk of Alabama—Swift Night Out at McWane Science Center
- 23 October 2017—WVTM 13: New Birmingham Chimney Swift Tower Project to Help Save Bird Population
- 19 October 2017—CBS 42: Local Group Recreates Habitat of Birds by Building Towers Downtown