Umpqua Valley Audubon Society

Roseburg Swift Watch – Friday Evenings During the Fall Southward Migration (and occasionally during the Spring as well)!

Location: The Clay Place chimney in the Fir Grove section of Stewart Park behind the Umpqua Valley Arts Center off Harvard Avenue

Dates/Times: Swift Watch is generally held several Friday evenings during the fall migration beginning an hour before sunset, typically beginning late in August and ending in late September.  Although, Swift Watch happens only a few times during the migration, the migration itself goes on for several weeks, typically peaking in mid- to late- September.  So you can enjoy the “show” around sunset all fall.

Natural History:

Vaux’s (rhymes with “fox”) Swifts look like small, dark, fast-flying cigars with wings. Their small bodies are 4-5 inches in length. Their wings are crescent-shaped and beat with swift, rapid, bat-like movements. Swifts do not “perch,” and are found flying or clinging to vertical surfaces such as trees and chimneys.

Vaux’s Swifts are truly amazing aerialists. They spend much of the time in the air and forage, drink, court, collect nesting materials, and copulate all in flight. They have a voracious appetite for flying insects and ballooning spiders.

Vaux’s Swifts arrive in Oregon (and points north) in late April, court their mates in May and June, and have their 4-6 eggs laid and hatched by July. In the fall, swifts congregate in large groups as they prepare for their migration southward to Central America and Venezuela. During September, large groups of swifts pass through the Roseburg area, typically spending just a night or two before moving on.

While old hollow trees are their natural habitat, it is not uncommon for these migrating swifts to use chimneys to roost in during the night, and once a population of swifts locates an appropriate chimney, they are likely to return year after year. Groups of roosting swifts can range in size from just a few individuals to as many as 35,000 in some larger smokestacks.

Citizen Science:

During Swift Watch, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society members will be available Friday evenings to serve as interpretive naturalists, with information and brochures about Vaux’s Swifts as well as more general information about birding and our natural world.  Weather permitting, art activities are provided for children and musicians calling themselves the “Swifts Sisters and Friends” join us to play Americana music, so come out and join in the fun!

In addition, throughout the fall migration, Audubon members participate in a West Coast-wide data collection effort. We know swifts have lost much of their natural habitat and the number of chimneys available for roosting and nesting is also on the decline. Little is known about even the most basic habits of Vaux’s Swifts, to say nothing of how many there actually are. Working in conjunction with our partners up and down the West Coast, we hope to fill in some of the data gaps.

Collection Data

Our data collection is part of the work being done by Vaux’s Happening. Vaux’s Happening promotes the conservation of migrating Vaux’s Swifts by raising awareness of the spectacular roosting events this species displays at a limited number of large trees and old masonry structures on the Pacific Flyway.

Since its beginning in the spring of 2008, the project has documented over eight million individual roosting events in the US, Canada, and Mexico. It is our hope that public awareness of the importance of these sites will play a positive role in the sites’ protection.

Roseburg Swift Watch is a partnership of Umpqua Valley Audubon Society and
the City of Roseburg Parks & Recreation Department.