Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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WORLD BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Chimney Swift
 
 

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  Order Apodiformes - Swifts and Hummingbirds
   Family Apodidae - Swifts and Tree-Swifts
      Subfamily Chaeturinae - Needletails

  Swifts and Hummingbirds are small birds and strong fliers that feed on the wing. They have a short, stout humerus that has provided an ideal wing structure for hovering in hummingbirds.
Swifts are aerial (some sleep and mate on the wing). They have small weak feet and never land on the ground (they perch on vertical surfaces). They are among the fastest fliers. One group is able to echolate in the caves where they build their nests. Nests are glued to a vertical surface with saliva.
Needletails are swifts of the Americas and are among the smallest and plainest in the family. Those species that originally nested in hollow trees have adapted to nesting in chimneys and other man-made structures.
     
     
  Chimney Swift, Chaetura pelagica
 
Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoLL
        SUMMER - Common / Common, breeds
            OPEN SKY (over cities and towns)
 
   Chimney Swifts are often described as "flying cigars with wings." They are small, dark birds with long wings that fly rapidly with rapid wing beats. Their flight feathers and stiff and hard. They nest in hollow trees or chimneys and have very weak feet. The hallux is reversible (it can face forward of aft). Their tails are spiny and provide a prop while birds rest on vertical surfaces. They also use a claw on the hand to attach to vertical substrates.
   Aloft they pursue aerial "plankton," small insects which they capture on the wing. Their best field mark are high "chips," often run together in chains of chattering. Look up to see swifts over the beach and marsh in the summer (they are less common than swallows but do occur here).
 
     
  RANGE: Chimney Swifts breed broadly across the eastern states and into the southern parts of eastern Canadian provinces, extending west to central Texas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. They winter in Peru, northern Chile, and northwestern Brazil.
  BREEDING: Cooperative mating system. Both parents help build the nest - a half saucer attached to the wall or a chimney or other structure (or in a hollow tree). It is made of twigs glued together and to the wall with saliva. It may take 20 days to complete and eggs may be laid before it is finished. They lay 4-5 eggs and both parents incubate for 19-21 days. Young are altricial and leave the nest after about 20 days and use their claws to cling to vertical walls. They are able to fly at 28-30 days.
   Both parents help care for the young - they feed them on regurgitated insects. Pairs may be assisted by helpers of both sexes who feed the young and occasionally incubate. They usually nest in loose colonies containing a few pairs.
   They usually nest in older stone/tile chimneys (we've had them emerge in our fireplace in Clemson) but the newer metal lined flues wouldn't work. If you have them, you'll hear them (and find some litter dropped in your fireplace). Clean the chimney before you light a fire in the fall!
   After breeding, swifts often gather in large flocks (thousands of birds) and roost together in chimneys.
  DIET: They feed on flying insects. They forage only while flying, usually in small groups of individuals.
  VOICE: Their voice is a series of single, high, hard chips run together into a chattering series that alert you to their presence overhead.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds?). Kiawah - uncommon spring and fall, common summer (breeds). Edisto - summer.
      Coastal - common summer resident. Hilton Head - common summer resident. Cape Romain - common/common (breeds)/accidental/absent.          Huntington Beach - uncommon April; common May - October.
      Caw Caw - common/common/common/absent. ACE - common/common (breeds)/common/absent.
   SCBBA: All coastal counties - most counties of the state.
   P&G: Common breeder, very abundant fall migrant. Maximum: "thousands" Charleston, 15-16 September 1975. 14 March - 5 November. Egg dates: 28 May - 27 June.
   Avendex: 5 records. March - April, September. Maximum: 2,000 (above)
   Potter: Swifts arrive in March and are abundant through October (early November). They migrate by day and roost overnight in large chimneys.
  ●  In the summer, it is not uncommon to see/hear swifts foraging over our marshes and beach. They might breed in appropriate tree cavities or chimneys but they are not present in the density that they reach in cities.
       
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KEY:    ■ Seabrook list     □ Kiawah list