Toronto’s chimney swifts need your help!

Help Toronto’s Swiftwatch Program

Chimney swifts circling over rooftops are a common sight in Toronto, but the truth is that these birds are in trouble. The Canadian population has declined by 95% between 1968 and 2005 leading it to be listed as “threatened” in 2007 under the federal Species at Risk Act. These migratory birds once nested in large hollow trees but over the centuries have adapted to an increasingly urban landscape. Today, much of the remaining Canadian population nests and roosts in old chimneys in urban areas of Southern Ontario, including many sites in Toronto. The trouble is that the swifts prefer the rough interior surface and large, well insulated space provided by old fashioned, brick chimneys, and more and more of these are being lined with metal, covered or taken down.

Ontario SwiftWatch is a program of Bird Studies Canada that relies on volunteers to identify and report chimneys that are actively used by swifts. Volunteer coordinator for Toronto, Rebecca Elbourne ( urgently needs your help to identify as many active chimneys as possible in the Toronto area. Two kinds of volunteers are needed:

Casual Observations: If you happen to see or hear swifts in the hour before sundown, take a minute to look for an open chimney in the vicinity and note down the address. If you have a few minutes, wait and see if birds enter the chimney. If they do, please report it online via and email Rebecca with your tips.

Active Surveys: Do you have the occasional hour around sundown to help seek out active chimneys in your neighbourhood? Please contact Rebecca at You will be given an area to investigate, a protocol and a list of 4 or 5 possible chimneys. Play bird detective and help SwiftWatch collect quality data.

For more information about the project, please go to the Bird Studies Canada page, or check out the program on facebook, There’s a huge variety of active chimneys in the city and the more we know, the better we’ll be able to conserve the nesting and roosting habitat of this species at risk. Please contact Rebecca and get involved!


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