Chimney Swift Survey

a small gray bird with an oval like body and full wings

Have you ever looked up and noticed fast, slender, acrobatic birds hunting insects in the sky above you? Or maybe you’ve heard their chittering calls? Well, those could be chimney swifts!

Chimney swifts

Chimney swifts are a fascinating Minnesota bird species. They can be found across Minnesota, both in the city and in the country. They spend a majority of their time flying and hunting insects. When they’re not flying, they perch on vertical or near-vertical surfaces and build their nests in areas that most other birds would find completely inaccessible.

As their name implies, they most commonly nest in chimneys or similar structures. Chimney swifts roost together in large numbers in a single chimney. They make their homes in schools, factories, churches, and old buildings…really any available chimney!

Chimney swifts are the only swift in Minnesota, and their populations have declined drastically in the last 50 years.


Help us learn more about Minnesota’s chimney swifts

You can contribute to chimney swift conservation, and participation is easy!

The Minnesota DNR wants to hear about your chimney swift sightings. We are interested in any observations of swifts, whether they are hunting or using a roost structure.

You can make a note of swifts that you specifically go outside to observe, or those you encounter incidentally (while you are outside for some other reason). Once you start looking and listening for swifts, you might notice them more often than you expect!


How to sign up:

  • Sign up for eBird
  • Upload your observations in the app. Make sure you note how many you saw/heard and where you were. It’s also important to record what time you observed the swifts. Large numbers of swifts flying together in the evening may indicate that a roost structure is nearby.


How to ID Chimney swifts

Swifts are usually gray. They have a small, oval body that is sometimes referenced as a “flying cigar” type silhouette. Their wings are skinny and curved and they move with quick, shallow wingbeats. Their tails are short and squared at the tip.

Swifts can often be confused with swallows. One quick way to differentiate them is color: if you see flashes of blue or orange or other colors, that’s probably a swallow. They also fly differently. If the bird has long, skinny wings that look like they’re fluttering, that’s a swift. If they have thick wings that taper off near the ends, that’s a swallow. Where the bird is flying can also be a clue. Swifts tend to hunt high above, over the tops of buildings or trees, while swallows are more likely to be seen swooping low.

Some other helpful resources:


Sign up for Updates:

Send us an email at [email protected] with the subject line “Chimney Swift” to receive updates about chimney swift events and volunteer opportunities in the future. We plan to expand this research in 2023! Thank you in advance for your interest and participation.

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