Fourth Annual Asheville Chimney Swift Watch

For all you locals — a cool local nature event.

chimney swifts

See the birds circling that chimney? They’re chimney swifts, a kind of bird that can’t perch, but can cling to a vertical surface. The swifts’ original habitats were hollow trees, but when their habitats were destroyed, they did something amazing. They learned to live in chimneys.

During the day, swifts fly around and eat insects. As evening approaches they come home to their chimney. As they do, they make a whirlpool in the sky, a signal to other swifts — one that can be seen for miles. The swifts see it and know it’s time to come home. They circle the chimney in a swirling funnel, and one by one enter to cling to the chimney’s sides and sleep the night hours away.

Watching these birds as they make their aerial funnel at dusk is really something. I saw it last year, and plan to watch it again this weekend.

The birds are coming through WNC right now on their way south. If you live in Asheville, check out this citywide nature event sponsored by PARC (People Advocating Real Conservancy).

Please note that the info on the PARC website is outdated (as of today anyway!). Please use the info in this post. It’s copied from a recent email from the event organizer:


Date: Monday, September 25 to Saturday, September 30

Time: 7 to 8 PM

Location: In front of Asheville Middle School, 197 South French Broad.

The chimney swifts have not returned to the Grove Arcade this year. A sizable colony is at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and a much larger one at Asheville Middle School. So the Fourth Annual Chimney Swift Watch will be held in front of the school.

Each year chimney swifts gather in large local chimneys before their long migration to Peru. They form huge swirling patterns in the sky every evening at dusk, circling as a group before they drop down into their chimney for the night. It’s amazing to see!

These little fellows eat thousands of mosquitoes and other bugs every day on the wing. They are local birds that nest in pairs in the spring, and then gather as a group for their annual migration around Labor Day. The swifts will leave together when the first southbound cold front moves through, usually in late September or early October.

Chimney swifts range over the eastern half of North America, so call your friends in Cleveland and tell them to look for tall chimneys at dusk and they too will see the swifts circling together in the sky before their evening slumber.

Swifts are a protected species. Their habitat, which is not protected, is declining, so of course the swifts are too. See them while you can!

Children love to watch them too, so take the kids. Come join us to see your local swifts, and help spread the word!

The Asheville Annual Swift Watch is sponsored by PARC (People Advocating Real Conservancy), at

For more information contact


4 responses to “Fourth Annual Asheville Chimney Swift Watch

  1. I was leaving downtown Asheville at dusk Saturday evening 10/13/06 and noticed the swifts staging at the Grove Arcade chimney. New to Asheville, I had no idea what I was watching. A family passing by in their van stopped to watch as well and explained to me what I was seeing. They said that the Watch was two weeks ago and they didn’t show.They said that it is a one day happening…is that true? I thought that I’d let you know that they did come. Next year, I know what to look foir. Do they do the same routine on their return North?

  2. Hey S.T.-

    You know, I though the swifts had left Asheville, but I guess they’re still at the Grove Arcade! The ones at the Middle School are long gone.

    Yes, the offical “Swift Watch” sponsored by PARC is a one- or two-day thing, as I recall. The swifts are in town for weeks, but the offical “Swift Watch” event is just over one weekend. Because of the many people who turn out, it’s my favorite time to watch the swifts. Everyone applauds the swifts at the end!

    You know, I don’t know if the swifts do the same thing on the way back! To find out, you might email Mr. Swift himself, Charlie Thomas, at

  3. wanted to find out if there is a “show” of the swifts tonight?(10-6-07) I will be working in the Asheville Civic Center and wanted to take a chance that I could see them out on top of the old smoking deck out back? What would be a good time to watch tonight? Will they be leaving? Or, will there be more swifts coming ? And, which chimney should I be looking for? Thanks for any info, Susan

  4. Hey Susan,

    Word is that there are still swifts in town, and the Civic Center parking lot offers a great view. Here’s how to watch them:

    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s