Audubon's Chimney Swift Tower Program

Meet our local "flying cigars."

Chimney Swifts, often described as ‘cigars with wings,’ spend a majority of their life in flight. They are small smudge-gray birds that consume thousands of airborne insects a day. While not in flight, Chimney Swifts cling to vertical surfaces using spines on the end of their tail feathers to help support them. Chimney Swifts are unable to perch on a branch like other birds. Historically, these birds nested in hollowed limbs, snags, and even in caves. As cities became more common and mature trees became less common, Chimney Swifts adapted to roosting and nesting in chimneys.

Although still relatively common in cities, towns, and neighborhoods, Chimney Swifts are designated as Near Threatened. Over the last 50 years, their population has declined over 70%. In recent years, the rate of decline has accelerated. Their decline is attributed to a shift in chimney design, the capping and demolition of chimneys, and a decreased availability of their food source (insects) due to widespread use of pesticides.

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) is supporting Chimney Swift protection through a variety of approaches. We have installed nearly 150 Chimney Swift towers to provide breeding habitats for these birds. You can help us by reporting what you see at Chimney Swift Towers. Even if you see no birds, please let us know!

Through our education initiatives, we are working to spread awareness of the importance of Chimney Swift conservation and how individuals can support their protection.