16 September 2021
Because chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) eat insects on the wing, they eat while they migrate during the day then roost in chimneys at night. In August they begin leaving Pittsburgh and are gone by early October on their way to South America. Mid-September is usually prime time for watching them swirl and drop into chimneys at dusk.
Last year I was thrilled to watch 1,500 of them diving into the roost at the Cathedral Mansions chimney.
But not this year.
Ever since Hurricane Ida passed through Pittsburgh, chimney swifts have been relatively rare and nearly absent from Cathedral Mansions. Earlier this week Steve Tirone, who watches swifts in Squirrel Hill, commented on the low numbers in his area. We’ve seen flocks of about 20 during the day but not the great numbers we usually expect.
Are the swifts gone? Have you seen large flocks of chimney swifts lately? Where?
p.s. Pittsburgh is not alone. This 15 Oct 2021 article in the Washington Post remarks on the absence of migrating swifts in Baltimore + see Kathleen’s comment below about the lack of swifts in Asheville, NC. Uh oh!
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Michelle Kienholz)