Oct 14, 2012

Swift Response


Vaux's Swifts are small insectivorous birds that spend much of their time on the wing. In fall, they gather in large groups as they journey south from their Pacific Northwest breeding grounds to Mexico and Central America, making a return trip in spring.

As the birds traverse what is now mostly an urban landscape, instead of roosting at night in tree hollows, they have taken to sheltering in man-made structures, like chimneys and smokestacks.

At dusk, thousands can be seen whirling and funneling into a chosen location. A spectacular sight to see. Check out this great video.



Much to the dismay of onlookers, it's not uncommon to see crows, ravens and other predatory birds plucking an occasional meal from the whirling mass - like a grizzly bear snatching salmon from a waterfall.As they travel through Southern California, over the last few years, the swifts have roosted in the brick chimney of the 86-year old Chester Williams Building at Broadway and Fifth in downtown Los Angeles.

Unfortunatley, on October 12th workers placed a rain guard on the chimney, preventing the birds from entering that evening. Many of the birds found shelter in a nearby chimney, but another lot of them ran into a bit of trouble.

That same night, an officer with the Pasadena Humane Society responded to a call about a mass of birds inside a chimney in Arcadia. When he arrived, he found nearly 200 swifts clinging to the sides of a residential fireplace. Thinking they were non-native starlings, he collected them in boxes and returned them to the station to be dealt with in the morning.

Thankfully, 
Ashley Herman, Wildlife Management Specialist with the Pasadena Humane Society quickly identified them as swifts and immediately released them back where they were found. 

Photo by Mike Danzenbaker avesphoto.com

Thanks to Jeff Chapman, Clare Marter Kenyon, Laura Garrett, Martha Benedict, Greg Martin, Councilmember Jose Huizar and Jessica Wethington McLean for their quick action to get the cap removed.

The following night, the swifts returned and were observed using both chimneys, but the fate of their roost remains uncertain.

Hopefully, the swifts will be guaranteed a forever-stopover in downtown Los Angeles.


More on these wonderful creatures at Vaux's Happening