Darting through the early night sky, the tiny Chimney Swift is an urban dweller adapting to survive alongside people and the built environment. Experts from across the country are landing in Raleigh to discuss conservation efforts to preserve this species and celebrate a true urban achiever. 

For the first time, Chimney Swift experts from across the country will come together to discuss conservation methods to help protect this fragile species. While the Swift is not listed as endangered or threatened, its population has rapidly declined over the past decade. Changes in the urban landscape have reduced the Chimney Swift’s preferred nesting chimneys and towers, as well as a reduction in the insects available to them.

Swifts originally nested in caves and large hollow trees, but over time adapted to nest in built structures alongside humans. This species now almost exclusively uses man-made structures to roost and raise its young. Humans can help the Chimney Swifts by leaving chimneys and other brick towers intact. 

“Although the Chimney Swift has successfully adapted to urban communities over the last century, it won’t continue to thrive unless we work to protect the habitats it relies on for nesting and stopovers during a long migration,” said Curtis Smalling, Audubon North Carolina’s Director of Land Bird Conservation. “The Swift Tower at Prairie Ridge is a perfect example of how people can work to better understand a bird’s needs and take actions to benefit an entire species.”

By bringing together national experts, the Wake Audubon Society and Audubon North Carolina will begin a meaningful conversation toward conservation planning for different swift species across the nation. 

In addition to this conservation planning meeting, event partners North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake Audubon Society, Audubon North Carolina, Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon and the National Audubon Society have planned a full weekend of science and family-friendly events. 

Throughout the weekend, the public is invited to learn about and marvel at the uniqueness of the Chimney Swifts that live alongside us.  


Chimney Swift Conservation Forum

Friday, August 21

Nature Research Center Environmental Conference Room (4th floor, 121 W. Jones St.), 6 to 10 p.m.

An opening reception will begin the evening from 6 to 7 p.m. 


Event Page: http://wakeaudubon.org/chimney-swift-conservation-forum/ 

The public is invited to learn why these fascinating birds have declined over the last decade and why they are almost entirely dependent on human structures to survive and thrive. The Chimney Swift Conservation Forum will feature seven experts on Chimney Swifts and their western relatives out, Vaux’s Swifts, in a series of brief talks. 

Featured speakers include:

  • John Connors, Naturalist, Environmental Educator and Wake Audubon Board Member
  • Rua Mordecai, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Science Coordinator, South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Paul & Georgean Kyle, Project Directors at the Chimney Swift Conservation Association
  • Charlie Collins, Professor Emeritus of Biology at California State University at Long Beach
  • Larry Schwitters, Advocate for the Vaux’s Swift
  • Dennis Evangelista, Research Scientist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • John Gerwin, Research Scientist and Curator of Birds at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Rich Merritt, Director of Operations, Audubon New York
  • Brian Shema, Operatons Director, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania
  • Amy Weidensaul, Director of Grants and Program Development for Audubon Pennsylvania
  • Curtis Smalling, Director of Land Bird Conservation, Audubon North Carolina
  • Kim Brand, Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator, Audubon North Carolina

The talks will be moderated by Wake Audubon President Rick LaRose. 


Chimney Swift Family Festival

Saturday, August 22

Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife & Learning, 1671 Gold Star Drive, 4 to 9 p.m., Free

Fun for the entire family, bird lovers of all ages are invited to the Chimney Swift Family Festival to learn more about the little birds with a big impact on the environment. See life through the eyes of a Swift; build a nest; try on a pair of life-sized wings; peek inside the newly built Chimney Swift tower at Prairie Ridge, and enjoy guided nature walks and opportunities to talk to Swift experts. With craft activities, live music, food trucks and misting stations to stay cool, this event is a perfect way to enjoy a late summer afternoon. A symbolic “housewarming party” and culminating parade for the birds begins at 8 p.m.

The Chimney Swift Family Festival celebrates the official completion of the Chimney Swift Tower at Prairie Ridge. The construction of the tower is an important conservation tool to protect the species. Currently, one Swift pair is raising a chick inside. This fall, the tower will serve as a resting spot for migrating Swifts on their way to South America. The project was funded by donations from supporters of Wake Audubon. 

Chimney Swift Community Stake-Out

Sunday, August 23, 7 p.m. to Dusk


  • Lincoln Heights Elementary School, 307 Bridge St. 
  • Carnage Middle School, 1425 Carnage Dr. 
  • Dillon Supply, West & Hargett
  • Stone Warehouse, 500 E. Davie St. 
  • Professional Building, 127 W. Hargett St. 

Families and the public are invited to watch Swifts swirl into urban chimneys throughout the Triangle. These neighborhood chimneys offer Swifts a place to raise their young and rest during migration. At each Stake-Out, guests can meet Swift experts and marvel with fellow bird lovers. Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair and welcome the Swifts to your neighborhood. 

All events are co-sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake Audubon Society, Audubon North Carolina, Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon and the National Audubon Society. 

ABOUT THE CHIMNEY SWIFT: Every April, the Chimney Swifts return to North Carolina from their wintering grounds in South America. The Swifts use local chimneys to raise their chicks, usually one pair per chimney, and can be spotted throughout the summer in local neighborhoods. After raising their young, Chimney Swifts gather in large flocks for their migration south. During migration, they look for vertical structures to cling to for the night. Towers and chimneys are the perfect perch. At dusk, Swifts can be seen swirling into their roost in a beautiful torrential bird tornado. One of nature’s most impressive and beautiful sights, urban dwellers are lucky to have easy access to this spectacle every fall and spring.

For more information on the Celebrate Swifts weekend, please contact John Gerwin at 919-707-9945 or via e-mail at john.gerwin@naturalsciences.org or Wake Audubon Society at 919-571-0388 or via email at info@wakeaudubon.org 

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About Audubon North Carolina

With a century of conservation history in North Carolina, Audubon strives to conserve and restore the habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy. Audubon North Carolina has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill. Learn more at nc.audubon.org and @audubonnc.

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