Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2021


This evening I went to watch the Vaux’s Swifts as they gathered at a chimney of a Baptist church here in Salem, the one at Marion & Liberty. The chimney is on the south side of the building complex next to the north side of Marion, and clearly visible from the Rite-Aid parking lot across Marion Street. There were at least two hundred swifts circling. I did not stay until after sunset when they would funnel into the chimney. It is accommodating because it has no chimney cap and is made of rough brick, and there must not be a slick metal liner so the swifts can grab a crevice or protrusion to hang on to. Swifts cannot perch. They can grab and hang, like bats.

Often they are not seen in the sky overhead like swallows because swifts may rise far up into the sky and become invisible to our eyes, They may even go high enough to feed on aerial plankton thousands of feet above the Earth.

One of the most amazing facts about swifts is that some swift species can go months without landing when they are not nesting. Half the brain sleeps while the other half monitors the flight.

Vaux’s are the smallest swift in America and there is a sequence of chimneys along their migration route where they gather nightly during their late summer flight south which roughly follows Interstate 5.

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