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Species Description

Chimney Swift

Chaetura pelagica


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Apodidae

Description

Charcoal gray overall; slightly paler underneath. 13 cm (5.25 in) in length. Many people say that the Chimney Swift looks like "a cigar with wings." It has long, narrow, pointed wings and a fat short body. Its flight is bat-like, with the wings appearing as though they beat alternately rather than in unison. The call of this species is a loud chittering.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early May, peaks later that month, and extends to mid-July. Breeding habitat consists of mostly urban areas. Most nests are in chimneys, but this species will also nest in other man-made structures or in hollow trees. The nest is a half-saucer made out of twigs and other plant material, which the bird attaches together and to the wall of a chimney using saliva. The female lays 3-6 (usually 4-5) eggs that both adults take turns incubating for 19-21 days. The young are altricial and fledge 28-30 days after hatching. An additional male or female, called a helper, may help the adults incubate eggs and feed nestlings.

Natural History

Non-breeding habitat is similar to the breeding habitat. The diet consists of flying insects that the Chimney Swift captures while in flight. This species is migratory.

Range

Chimney Swift Region Map The Chimney Swift occurs throughout the eastern half of the United States during the breeding season. During the winter, these birds are found in South America. (There are apparently no winter records of this species in the United States.) In Georgia during the breeding season, Chimney Swifts are common to abundant throughout the state.

Conservation Status

The populations of Chimney Swifts probably increased with the spread of settlers in the United States, because settlement increased the number of available nest sites. This species is common throughout its southeastern range.

Similar Species

The Chimney Swift is the only member of its family in the eastern United States. It has a distinctive body shape and call that makes it difficult to misidentify it as any other species.