Chimney Swifts

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 that nests in Minnesota, and their populations have declined drastically in the last 50 years.


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.

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