7 Fascinating Facts About Swift Birds

Updated: Dec. 02, 2021

Learn facts you need to know about a swift bird. These airborne birds can’t sit still. Get facts about swift nests, range and migration.

A Chimney Swiftsonnyrollins / Imazins/Getty Images
A chimney swift bird in flight

Chimney Swifts Love to Fly

Chimney swifts are very fast fliers and spend most of their lives in midair. They eat, drink and mate while flying, only stopping to raise young. They even take their baths in flight by dipping in a water source briefly. It’s estimated they fly more than 500 miles each day. Chimney swifts are small birds, only about 5 inches in length, that look somewhat like swallows and are sometimes mixed in with flocks of swallows. They are often referred to as “flying cigars” because they look like fat cigars with wings flying high above us! You may hear the distinctive twittering call of a swift bird before you look up to see it flying above.

Psst—this is how birds fly.

Swifts Roost in Large Numbers

When roosting, up to 35,000 Vaux’s swifts may gather in one site. Discover why some species flock with other birds in winter.

Chimney Swifts Are Losing Nesting Sites

Unfortunately chimney swifts are a species of conservation concern.  They originally nested in old tree stumps then wood fence posts.  After eastern forests were cut down and wooden fence posts went to the wayside, they adapted to nesting in chimneys.  Now, however, chimneys are  often not included in new buildings and many with chimneys have caps on them so a swift bird cannot enter to nest. There are a number of efforts to provide artificial nesting sites by building chimney swift towers.

Baby Chimney Swifts

Birds & Blooms contributor SeEtta Moss had the pleasure of observing, and photographing, the release of two fledgling chimney swifts. They had fallen down a chimney in a home. Luckily for these baby birds, the homeowner rescued them and brought them into a wildlife rehab center for care. As you can see, they are very young as their eyes are not open yet in this photo. SeEtta also shared a video of the baby chimney swifts when they were ready to be fed.

Check out more pictures of super cute baby birds.

Chimney Swifts Are Crafty Nest Builders

One way chimney swifts adapted to habitat loss is using their saliva to stick their nests to houses.

Learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

White-Throated Swifts Are Not Picky About Nesting Sites

White-throated swifts nest in a wide range of sites, from Death Valley at 180 feet below sea level up to elevations of 11,000 feet.

Do birds reuse their nests?

4 Types of Swift Birds Live in North America

Four types of swift birds nest in North America. Black, Vaux’s and white-throated swifts are found in the western half of the United States, while chimney swifts are found throughout the eastern and midwestern states and in southern Canada.

Learn all about swallows’ nests and nesting habits.

Black Swifts Migrate to Spend Winter in Brazil

In 2010, geolocators helped researchers discover black swifts travel 4,000 miles to Brazil each winter. Before that, the birds’ wintering location was unknown.

Where do hummingbirds migrate in winter?