In late summer and early fall, one of the great spectacles of bird migration takes place just above our rooftops. As the season changes and temperatures inch downward, huge flocks of Chimney Swifts begin gathering above the skylines of North Carolina’s cities and towns, swirling in giant gyrating spirals every evening.
It’s one of the most awe-inspiring bird events you can witness in North Carolina, and Audubon chapters across the state are hosting outdoor, socially distanced Swift Night Out watch parties to help you enjoy the show.
Use the list below to find a watch party near you, and be sure to check the start time. Swifts begin congregating just before dusk, and the last birds will swoop down into their chimney roosts just after dark.
The birds spend the night together in huge numbers to stay warm and rest before their long migration journeys to the Amazon Basin, where they spend the winter.
Chimney Swifts’ dependence on human structures is a relatively recent phenomenon. Researchers believe the birds adapted over the last few centuries to nest and roost in chimneys, rather than natural roosting sites like caves and hollow trees. Still, swift populations are declining precipitously, decreasing by more than 50 percent between 1966 and 2007.
You can help swifts by getting involved in community science and helping to count them. Learn more ways you can get involved here.
BONUS: Watch swift virtually by tuning into our special Virtual Swift Night Out at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29. We'll broadcast live from swift roosts across the state. Register here.
Asheville, Hosted by Blue Ridge Audubon
Thursday, Sept. 30 at 6:45-7:45 p.m. Meet at the top floor of the Civic Center Garage, located at 49 Rankin Avenue.
Charlotte, Hosted by Mecklenburg Audubon
Wednesday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 26, 6:45-8 p.m. Meet at East Mecklenburg High School, Monroe Road. To participate, you must register with event leader Richard Pockat, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greensboro, Hosted by T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon and the Piedmont Bird Club
Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene Street. Meet on the back side of the building near the corner of Federal Place and Exchange Place. Street and lot parking are nearby. Duration: up to 2 hours.
Cape Fear Audubon is not having an organized Swift Night Out this year because of the pandemic. You can go and see the swifts enter the chimney on the UNCW campus on your own. The swifts arrive at sunset and descend into the chimney about 10 - 15 minutes later. The chimney is on Hanover Hall (second building down from tennis courts). You can park in the lot next to Hanover Hall for free after 6. Take a chair, use safe distancing and wear a mask when close to others. It is quite a sight to see.
Winston-Salem, Hosted by Forsyth Audubon
Saturday, Sept. 11, 7-8 p.m., Northwest Middle School, 5501 Murray Road. For more details, email email@example.com
Wilkesboro, Hosted by High Country Audubon
Sunday, Sept. 12, Wilkesboro Elementary School, 1248 School St