PAWS Magazine

Issue 71, Fall 2008

A Swift Gathering

Photo of birds gathering in an old chimney.Each year more than ten thousand migrating Vaux's Swifts head to an unused and old chimney at Frank Wagner Middle School in Monroe, Washington for their spring and fall migrations. These tiny insectivorous birds gather here on their way to and from northwestern Canada and Washington State to Central America and Venezuela. These days, swifts often use chimneys as roosting sites along their travels, but they actually prefer large, hollow, old trees. Unfortunately these trees are becoming harder and harder to find as habitat is destroyed.

Bird watchers come from all over to relax and watch this amazing event in Monroe, as the swifts prepare to roost each evening in May and September. The four to five-inch birds circle above the chimney by the thousands in tight formations before quickly, and very efficiently, fluttering downward tail first into the chimney, then clinging to the chimney walls for a night's sleep. In a single night this September, it was estimated that more than 15,000 Vaux's Swifts entered the Monroe chimney.

To help the birds along their migratory path, PAWS embarked on a new partnership in September with the Pilchuck Audubon Society to save the old and unstable Monroe chimney. Along with many other bird lovers, we supported what is now officially called "Swift Watch Day" now held each year in September. PAWS helped educate the hundreds of attendees about the importance of peacefully co-existing with wildlife and protecting habitat for our wild neighbors.

To find out more about attending this annual event and how you can help preserve the Frank Wagner Middle School swift roosting site, visit or call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.787.2500 x817.


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