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.
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.
Want to do even more to help?
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.