Chimney Swift

Scientific name: Chaetura pelagica
Mi’kmaq name:


The Chimney Swift is a small bird (12-14 cm) with dark brown plummage, and a pale throat. It has a long, thin body, with long, narrow, pointed wings that project beyond the short spiny tail when folded. It has a quick jerky flight. All ages and sexes are similar in appearance.


Before Europeans arrived in North America, the birds used giant hollow trees for nesting sites; they still use this habitat today, but they also use abandoned chimneys in urban and rural areas where temperatures are relatively constant. Being ariel foragers, they concentrate in areas where insects are abundant, such as near lakes and wetlands.

Chimney Swifts are seen from mid-April through September at dusk and dawn throughout Nova Scotia.

Interesting Points

  • Pairs are monogamous, and mate for life, beginning at age two.
  • The population in Canada is estimated at fewer than 12,000 individuals.
  • One bird can eat over 1000 insects per day.
  • They cannot take off if they are on the ground.


  • Dwindling number of breeding and roosting sites due to logging, which reduces the number of big, old, hollow trees.
  • Destruction of old abandoned buildings, which reduces the number of chimneys.
  • Light pollution and pesticide spraying, which kills insects and reduces food availability.

Courtesy of Species at Risk in Nova Scotia: Identification & Information Guide