MTRI is a non-profit co-operative with a mandate to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station.
Sign-up for free membership:
Help support MTRI!
You can donate via Paypal, just enter an amount and click the donate button - thank you.
Why are we studying Chimney Swifts?
Chimney Swifts are listed as Threatened in Canada and Endangered in Nova Scotia. Their decrease in numbers is likely the result of the use of pesticides to kill insects and the decline of hollow trees which are both their nesting and roosting sites. As a result Chimney Swifts have adapted to using chimneys to roost and nest in; however, the decline in suitable chimneys (due to new building regulations and insurance regulations) may also be impacting the population. For this reason it is important that we monitor Chimney Swift populations and encourage others to monitor and report additional sightings. The video below shows swifts entering a chimney at dusk.
Aerial insectivorous bird populations have been in sharp decline for several decades in North America. The Chimney swift was listed as Threatened in 2007 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2008. In Nova Scotia, several well known roost sites have been informally monitored for many years by a number of dedicated volunteers. In 2010, multiple stakeholders came together, along with experts from Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, to identify gaps and needs for Chimney swift recovery in the Maritime Provinces and to bring current monitoring in line with other Canadian programs. The result was the Maritime Swiftwatch program initiated by Bird Studies Canada. This project aims to systematically monitor population levels at known roost sites, to learn more about nesting ecology of Chimney swifts and increase awareness of Chimney swifts.
To conduct counts at the McGowan Lake roost site on standardized dates and other dates during migration and nesting seasons.
To introduce new volunteers to Chimney swift monitoring to expand the base of available volunteers.
To analyze automated counter data to get a better understanding of arrival and departure rates as well as seasonal fluctuations.
McGowan Lake roost with data logger (Photo Credit: Brad Toms)
Chimney swifts were counted as they entered the roost site at dusk using visual and video counts. Weather conditions were also noted along with any other aerial insectivores. Counts took place on standardized dates as well as casually on other dates.
An Eco-Visio data logger was deployed in July 2013 and collected in November 2013.
In 2014, eight counts took place from May through August, including four counts on standardized dates. The highest count was 137 and the lowest was two birds. Two of the counts took place in August after the roost was no longer in use by a large group and had one and two birds counted.
A data logger deployed in 2013 and collected in fall 2013 showed that while the logger consistently underestimated the number of birds it proved to be a great tool to observe usage patterns at a Chimney swift roost. The last large group to use the roost was on August 13 2013 and sparse readings after that date cannot reliably be identified as Chimney swifts using the roost (<6 birds).
The data logger was not deployed in 2014.
Ongoing project since 2011
Bird Studies Canada
Blomidon Naturalist Society
Ecology Action Center
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
Nova Scotia Power