Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 26, 2021

Chaetura Swifts: From trees to chimneys 

The Golden Gate Audubon Blog has an interesting article about how swifts roost in old industrial chimneys.

Even a passing acquaintance with the natural world reveals that species exist on a continuum from Specialist to Generalist—from species that require a very particular habitat to those that can survive in a variety of places. Both have their strengths but the vulnerabilities of the specialist are easily seen. What happens to the specialist when their special habitat is impacted? Obviously, it becomes “adapt or perish.”

Vaux’s Swifts (Chaetura vauxi) and Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica)—both of which evolved to rely on hollow trees for nesting and roosting—are a case in point. What happens when humans destroy old growth forests and remove hollow trees and snags? These swifts have adapted to a different vertical, tubular structure, the chimney: residential chimneys for nesting, and large, pre-World War II industrial chimneys for migratory roosting. Why pre-World War II? Because the older chimneys are often made of concrete or brick with rough inner walls where birds can grasp and hang, while modern industrial chimneys are either metal or ceramic lined. So the chimneys used by swifts are antique, with all the scarcity and fragility this implies.

Read more Chaetura Swifts: From trees to chimneys – Golden Gate Audubon Society


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