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City of Mississauga Parks and Forestry - Natural Areas

SwiftWatch

SwiftWatch is a citizen science monitoring program run by Bird Studies Canada that brings volunteers and community groups together to act as stewards for chimney swifts and their habitat.

Chimney swifts are a species at risk bird that lives in chimneys. Historically, they lived in large, hollow trees. However, as Europeans settled in North America, such habitats became scarce. Swifts adapted and began using chimneys for nesting and roosting.

Sign up to be a volunteer!

The City has partnered with SwiftWatch to encourage residents to help identify and monitor active chimneys in Mississauga. SwiftWatch allows people to search for chimneys that have chimney swifts nesting/roosting in them and monitor chimneys that are known to have chimney swifts.

A volunteer commitment takes only about an hour a week, is easy to do and is a great way spend time outside! The SwiftWatch coordinator will help you find a chimney to monitor. You simply visit it once a week to count the number of chimney swifts entering the chimney.

For more information and to volunteer, email parks.forestry@mississauga.ca

Some Facts About Chimney Swifts

  • The chimney swift population in Canada has declined by 95% since 1968.
  • Chimney swifts prefer to nest in older brick chimneys that are at least 2.5 bricks wide. They are only in the Mississauga area from about late April to late September.
  • Swifts will roost (rest) in large groups, up to several thousand in some cases, but only one pair of chimney swifts will nest in each chimney.
  • Chimney swifts build nests out of small twigs that they attach to the inside of chimneys using their very sticky saliva.
  • It is not dangerous to have chimney swifts nesting in your chimney. They will be gone by mid-late September before most people will start using their chimneys. By providing them with a safe and clean chimney to raise their young you can contribute to the recovery of this species.
  • Their nests are very small and do not cause a fire hazard as they do not block the chimney.
  • Chimney swifts are listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act, and are protected under provincial and federal acts to prevent people from damaging their nests or the chimneys while they are nesting in them.
  • Chimney swifts fly all day without ever landing until they enter the chimney.
  • Chimney swifts are often called flying cigars due to their stout cigar-shaped bodies.
  • They fly much higher up than most birds and are often heard before they are seen by their distinct chattering call.
  • They have a very distinct jerky flight pattern often described as erratic.
  • In the fall, chimney swifts will roost in large groups before heading down to their winter grounds in the Amazon Basin of South America.
  • The best time to see chimney swifts is about half an hour before sunset. They will start to circle the chimney for several minutes before deciding it is time to go in where they will dive in head first.
  • An artificial chimney structure was installed in Timothy Street Park in 2016 to provide a nesting and roosting habitat for chimney swifts.

Additional resources are available on the Bird Studies Canada website.

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