Follow the Vaux’s Swifts


Bird migration is one of the great wonders of nature. And there are few spectacles in nature to match a flock of migrating Vaux’s Swifts coming to roost for the evening. The various Audubon entities that follow the incredible migration of Vaux’s Swifts up and down the West Coast created this site to put you in touch with the great shows being put on throughout the region by the birds as they make their journey. Check back regularly — and enjoy the show!

Where for art thou swifts?

Happy spring to all! Today reminds us that migration for many bird species along the Pacific is in full swing. It also got us wondering about where the swiftys are right now. We took a quick look at to see where they were turning up.

Swift sightings, this month, mostly in Southern Mexico, Belize, and Central America

And while there have been a few reports of a couple of birds here and there in California (which according to LA County Museum of Natural History’s Kimball Garrett are almost certainly wintering here), most of the birds appear to still be south of US, mostly in Southern Mexico, Belize, and Central America. We will continue to monitor eBird to see if we can pinpoint their major arrival in the States. Check back for more info on our/your favorite bird…the Vaux’s Swift!

The sun is out and the swifts should be moving

Oct 8 is pretty late for Vaux’s Swifts to be roosting just 30 miles south of the Canadian border. Keith Wiggers had a 1757 total last night which puts Northern State’s 2011 Southbound overall roostings at 214,526. I’m looking at a bright blue sky for the first time in a week. Will the little birds leave early and travel far today? I would bet they do but they have fooled me before.

Rio Lindo on NPR

Brad Benson and his flocks of Vaux’s at Rio Lindo will be on NPR KQED radio this Friday.  Rusty was edged out of the staring role because of the McNear birds poor attendance record.  The story was put together by freelance journalist Julia Scott.

Don’t know what all the story covers or the time, but we bet Brad is going to sound real good.

Wa State Counting Update

The prime directive for southbound 2011 in Washington State was to get a boatload of data from Northern State Hospital and JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) chimneys, both of which we felt would be super-important roosting sites, but we didn’t have the data to be sure. See what our counts were:

Date N State JBLM
8/29/11 2820 1024
8/30/11 950
8/31/11 900
9/1/11 1735
9/2/11 6940 2886
9/3/11 9900 2698
9/4/11 3941
9/5/11 12500 1850
9/6/11 4365
9/7/11 14070 2810
9/8/11 5210
9/9/11 9252
9/10/11 15700 6995
9/11/11 7875
9/12/11 5400 4230
9/13/11 8080
9/14/11 8800 12960
9/15/11 14697
9/16/11 13400 9710
9/17/11 7100 4530
9/18/11 9710
9/19/11 2930
9/20/11 15900 3220
9/21/11 9420 4787
9/22/11 20965 4920
9/23/11 11850 4670
9/24/11 3590 8180
9/25/11 7400 3780
9/26/11 3560 1600
9/27/11 9370 1230
9/28/11 6000 1545
9/29/11 9500 2398
9/30/11 3540 3174
10/1/11 1580 1532
10/2/11 4300 1800
TOTAL 203,605 162,174

The Life of A Swift Counter

See below for an account of counting the swifts at the defunct chimney stack at the Old Northern State Hospital grounds in Sedro-Woolley, WA.  Gives you a sense of how dramatic the swift roosting experience can be…

  • Tonight (9/27) was both one of the most boring, and, the most exciting at the stack.  I started at 5:05 pm.  Fewer than 20 swifts entered the stack by 6:55 pm (i.e., almost 2 hours later!), although many were swirling around and making false passes at the stack the whole time.  Then in the next 8 minutes at least 6,150 went in.  They were going too fast to count very well.  No hesitation, no breaks, just a solid “tube” of birds.  Then a Merlin kept the remaining group high for three minutes, and grabbed a swift at 7:06.  It took the swifts three minutes after that to come back down to the stack, and they wasted NO time getting in.  They mostly went in in rapid “clumps” of 1-200, until the last 3,200 went in in less than 4 minutes!