Stepping out of the Beaten Path to Protect Chimney Swifts

Where are you little Chimney Swift? The Chimney Swift is a threatened species in Canada, where its population has dropped by 95% since the 1970s. Many threats, such as the loss of their nesting and resting habitat, loom heavily for this bird, which feeds on insects captured in flight. To help with its preservation, a new project, led by our Conservation and Research department, was instigated in 2018. And, to better protect the Chimney Swift, the zoo biologists and their partners are ready to step out off the beaten path to find solutions.

This 3-year project is carried out in the Lac-Édouard, Haute-Mauricie region, where lakes and rivers flow by a majestic (not always easily accessible) forest. Although the Chimney Swift has, over the years, adopted the chimneys of our homes, churches and other buildings for their resting and nesting places, historically, big hollow trees constituted their first habitats. These trees are quite rare today. However, there are still some interesting old forests in the Mauricie area. The region also has another major attraction: the enormous chimney of the Sanatorium Historique Lac-Édouard which, during the spring, welcomes about a hundred swifts and acts as a communal roost!

Could it be that some of these birds, because there are no other chimneys in the area, still use the surrounding forest as their breeding and nesting place?

To answer this important question, for the survival of the species, the team’s scientists, among them, biologist Isabelle Devost, Coordinator for the Conservation Department of the Zoo de Granby, have placed telemetric transmitters on some of the swifts to follow their movements. The gathered telemetry data will allow scientists to understand how this enigmatic bird species uses its natural environment during nesting periods. They will also follow its movements as it migrates towards Latin America.

The importance of this project resides with its many collaborators. It is supported by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Sanatorium Historique Lac-Édouard, the Observatoire d’Oiseaux de Tadoussac and the local communities. The project is also financed in part by the Bird Protection Quebec Organization and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. Thanks to the collaboration of all these partners, the data gathered will allow to better protect the mysterious, threatened species that is the Chimney Swift.

Thanks to our partners