A Manitoba group of bird watchers is wrapping up another season of observing a species at risk. Chimney Swifts have started migration, heading all the way to South America where they'll stay for the winter. 

Repairs are done to chimney at St. Joachim Church in La Broquerie in 2018. (photo submitted by Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative)

Chimney Swifts are small birds that are often mistaken for Barn Swallows due to their similar flight patterns for catching insects.

Amanda Shave is the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative Coordinator. She says there are a few reasons for the decline of the species, including fewer chimneys for the birds to live in. However, some of the birds are still using natural habitats.

“There’s one that we know of near Riding Mountain,” she says. “We haven’t found the site yet but people see, each year, a swift sliding down off of a certain trail into the trees. So, we think that they’re using a natural cavity there.”

With fewer chimneys for the birds to nest in, “swift towers” were erected in 2008 in the communities of Starbuck, St. Adolphe, Portage la Prairie, and Winnipeg.

Shave says Chimney Swifts are extremely beneficial birds to have around.

“They can eat thousands of insects in a night, just one Chimney Swift,” she points out. “So, if you think you have a breeding pair in your chimney and they’re eating a thousand insects a night each. Each night that they’re there, they’re providing pretty good pest control.”

Shave says this past year was a challenge for swifts as they had to deal with extreme heat and fewer insects to feed on.