Chimey Swift – Accepted

1. 20 May 1972


Oasis MNO




2-3. 31 May–13 Jun 1973


Encino LA



not published in a CBRC report


Chimey Swift – Not accepted, identification not established

24–26 May 1972


Encino LA

















Figure 333. This Chimney Swift, the first to be recorded in Santa Barbara County, flew down a Santa Barbara chimney on 16 June 1970 (Lehman 1994) and was captured and photographed (Alden Johnson). According to Pierre Devillers (1970b), “Although the bird was not measured, I think that the color pattern clearly indicates C. pelagica. Note the upper tail coverts concolor with the tail, the dark throat, as well as the spines of the tail. The possibility of a sooted C. vauxi can, I believe, be discarded because on the color transparency the plumage seems clean, showing for instance pale brown edges to certain flight feathers, fine brown scalloping on the top of the head, and a greenish gloss on the shoulder.” A color reproduction of this image provided by Unitt (2004) is too dark to show these marks clearly.







Chimney Swift

CHIMNEY SWIFT Chaetura pelagica (Linnaeus, 1758)

Accepted: 3 (75%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 1

CBRC review: 1972 and 1973 records1

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Color image: none

This swift breeds east of the Rocky Mts. across the United States and southern Canada. The species also summers very locally and breeds irregularly in California, as discussed below. The wintering grounds lie exclusively in western South America. Extralimital records extend as far as the Pribilof Islands, Northwest Territories, Bermuda, Greenland, and the British Isles.

California’s first Chimney Swift was collected on 6 May 1930 along the Colorado River a mile north of Potholes [=Laguna Dam] in Imperial County (Huey 1960, SDNHM 13055). After a brief period of consideration, the Committee deemed this species regular enough in the state—particularly as a summer visitor (see Garrett and Dunn 1981)—to remove it from the review list. The Chimney Swift is a rare, irregular transient in spring (6 May–9 July, mostly mid May to mid June, both coastal and interior) and fall (19 August–10 October, primarily coastal). One was collected on 26 May 1970 at Southeast Farallon Island (CAS 68598), and another was collected on 11 June 1976 at Mono Lake County Park, Mono County (CAS 69338). Fall records slightly outnumber spring ones in northern California, but the reverse is true in southern California. The latest spring record, from Southeast Farallon Island, is of a bird present 8–9 July 1991 (Richardson et al. 2003, P. Pyle in litt.), and Chaetura swifts recorded there on 8 July 1970 and 8 July 1974 were considered to be probable Chimneys (DeSante and Ainley 1980). The few interior fall records come from the Mojave Desert (e.g., 16 September 1996 at China Lake, Kern County, FN 51:121, and 25 September 1998 at Stovepipe Wells, Inyo County, NAB 53:104).

Vaux’s Swift, which breeds locally in redwood forests south along the coast to Monterey County and through the Sierra Nevada south to Tulare County (Sterling and Paton 1996), is the expected species of Chaetura swift during summer in northern California. As noted by Devillers (1970b), “Vaux’s Swifts in southern California during summer are unlikely but at least one Chaetura record seems to correspond positively to that species: South Pasadena, 31 July to 22 September 1943 (Cogswell 1944; identification on the basis of moulted feathers found in a chimney where swifts were roosting).” A few Vaux’s have been recorded in late spring and summer since that time, but the Chimney remains the default summer Chaetura swift in southern California.

Several California records of the Chimney Swift have involved nesting or potential nesting, as reviewed here from north to south. The species nested in 1975 and 1976 at Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, and in 1975 apparently attempted to nest in Davis, Yolo County (McCaskie et al. 1979). In Inyo County, three birds “best treated as Chaetura sp.” were seen on 10 June 1976 at Big Pine (AB 30:1004), and a Chimney Swift was documented in this area on 5 July 1977 (AB 31:1190). Small numbers were recorded in Big Pine annually between 1983 and 1987, and were suspected to nest there (see AB 37:913; 39:350; 39:963), but “hard proof [that nesting took place] is lacking” (T. and J. Heindel in litt.). The last Inyo County record considered acceptable by T. and J. Heindel (in litt.) involves three seen on 10 July 1994 over Big Pine (FN 48:989).

Between 1963 and 1987 several Chimney Swifts were recorded in Santa Barbara County, including two birds in Santa Barbara “going down a chimney repeatedly during the day throughout the period” of 7 June–early July 1963 and one that “came down a chimney in Santa Barbara and was captured” on 16 June 1970 (Lehman 1994). The only California breeding attempt known to be successful was by a pair that raised three young in Ventura, Ventura County, 13 June–1 October 1976 (Garrett and Dunn 1981).

Since the mid 1970s, the species has been especially regular during summer in the Los Angeles urban region, although numbers there appear to have diminished starting in the late 1990s (K. L. Garrett in litt. for this and the following information). Dates of occurrence in Los Angeles range from 30 April to 12 October. At least nine birds near downtown on 27 July 1987 furnished a high count. The presence of birds throughout the summer for more than 20 years suggests that nesting occurs at least occasionally, and nesting was considered “probable” at two sites near downtown during field work conducted 1995–1999 for the Los Angeles County Breeding Bird Atlas project.

The following is offered as a sampling of other probable or confirmed Chimney Swifts reported in midsummer on the coastal slope. One was found in a chimney with Vaux’s Swifts at Smith River, Del Norte County, 4–17 Jul 1998 and 4–25 Jun 1999 (Harris 2006). A Chimney Swift at Bolinas Lagoon on 19 July 1975 “suggests the possibility of breeding in Marin County” (Shuford 1993). A single Chimney Swift was at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz County, on 26 June 2004 (NAB 58:597). In San Luis Obispo County, single probable Chimney Swifts were observed near Morro Bay on 17 July 1981 (Marantz 1986) and in Atascadero and Morro Bay in July 1999 (NAB 53:433). Orange County claims two records of probable Chimneys: a bird in Irvine on 7 July 1973, and up to four near Orange from 15 June to 15 July 1982 (Hamilton and Willick 1996). In San Diego County, one was collected on 12 July 1968 at San Elijo Lagoon (SDNHM 36690); 6–8 were recorded in downtown San Diego on 11 July 1982; and three were recorded in Chula Vista on 21 July 1990 (Unitt 2004).

If the downtown Los Angeles population declines further, to where Chimney Swifts no longer occur there regularly, the species is scarce enough in migration throughout the state for the CBRC to reinitiate review of its records.

1On the review list 1972–1976


GREEN VIOLET-EAR Colibri thalassinus (Swainson, 1827) – see Appendix H