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Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica


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Chimney Swift with young
credit: Dominic Sherony/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Apodidae, Swifts view all from this family

Description ADULT Has dark brown plumage, palest on throat. Spinelike tips to tail feathers are only visible at close range. JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 4 3/4-5 1/2" (12-14 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor (mainly May-Sep) to eastern North America, but range extends to Midwest. Associated mostly with urban areas for breeding; nests and roosts in chimneys and cavities in tall buildings. Winters mainly in Amazonia region of South America.

Observation Tips Easy to see within range during summer months in towns and cities.

Range Western Canada, Plains, Southeast, California, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Eastern Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Great Lakes, New England

Voice Utters rapid, chattering twitters.

Discussion Small swift and the only one of its kind you are likely to encounter in eastern North America. Recognized by its narrow, pointed wings and cigar-shaped body. Soaring and banking birds fan the tail, but otherwise it is held closed. Active flight is speedy, with frequent changes in direction and style; its wingbeats are shallow and rapid. Catches flying insects on the wing. Breeding birds are typically associated with manmade structures, including chimneys. Presence is often first detected by hearing its twittering calls. Sexes are similar, although males have slightly notched tail.