Press Releases

Roseburg Swift Watch returns to Fir Grove


ROSEBURG, Ore. – Thousands of Vaux’s Swifts are roosting nightly in a chimney at Fir Grove Park – and the local Audubon Society chapter invites you to witness the awesome natural spectacle of seasonal bird migration for yourself.

Roseburg Parks and Recreation is co-sponsoring swift watches on three Friday evenings – Sept. 8, 15 and 22 -- with the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society (UVAS) and federal and state agencies. The Audubon Society invites the public to gather near Umpqua Valley Arts’ Clay Place, a community clay studio behind the UVA Center, 1624 W. Harvard Ave., by 6:30 p.m. to see displays by Vaux’s Swifts before the birds drop into the studio’s chimney about sunset to roost for the night.

Sunset is expected to occur at about 7:40 p.m. Sept. 8 but will arrive closer to 7:15 p.m. by Sept. 22. Audubon Society members will be out at the chimney most other nights between now and the end of September.

“We’ve already started monitoring. There’s been between 1,500 and 3,000 birds a night so far,” said UVAS President Diana Wales, a Roseburg Parks & Recreation Commission member. “Those numbers are little higher than normal for this time of the year. But every year is different.”

In fact, last fall, the swifts had forsaken the chimney at Fir Grove Park – where they’ve roosted during seasonal bird migrations every fall and spring for at least 50 to 60 years – for a chimney at the Douglas County Courthouse. But that chimney has been capped and the swifts are returning to Fir Grove Park.

Each night, dozens, hundreds or even thousands of swifts use the chimney to roost during annual fall southward migration to Central and South America for the winter. Some birds nest in the Umpqua Valley. Similar to hummingbirds, Vaux’s Swifts have extremely high metabolisms and are unable to perch on a branch. They fly around with their mouths open to eat as many bugs as they can during daylight.

Their natural habitat is old-growth forest, but swifts have lost much natural habitat and even chimneys used for roosting and nesting. Cold weather can be problematic for them, so about sunset, they gather in tight formations and circle around old hollow trees or chimneys, zoom around the top and quickly drop inside to cuddle up next to each other, Wales said.

The swifts may have been avoiding Roseburg during recent days with unhealthy or hazardous air quality levels due to smoke from the Tyee Ridge Complex of wildfires. The Audubon Society chapter started monitoring the chimney late last week, which was later than usual, and won’t hold a watch any night when the Air Quality Index is above 150. On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the AQI was 18 or “good.”

“There’s anecdotal information that the birds had been avoiding areas with high smoke. That probably applied, but we can’t say for sure,” Wales said. “The air was so bad, we didn’t want to be out there.”

The Friday evenings also will be used for the Umpqua Valley Migratory Bird Celebration. Staff from federal and state agencies will join the Audubon Society to share information about how Vaux’s Swifts are just one of the bird species that migrate seasonally in the Americas. Audubon Society members will be there to count swifts as part of a West Coast data-collection effort and to serve as interpretive naturalists answering questions.

Organizers encourage people to bring a folding chair, camp chair or blanket – or just watch from cars. Local musicians, Swifts Sisters and Friends, will perform Americana music on Friday nights if weather allows. Other musicians are encouraged to bring instruments. Arrive at least half an hour before sunset.

For more information, contact Umpqua Valley Audubon Society at or 541-680-0436.

Posted by RoseburgAdmin