The swifts that visit us at the Wagner Center (formerly Frank Wagner Elementary School) in Monroe, Washington are called “Vaux’s Swifts” (pronounced “voxes” like “foxes”).
These 4-5″ long birds are the smallest and most numerous of the swift species in Washington State. They spend much of their time in the air and forage, eat, drink, court, collect nesting materials and mate all in flight.
Vaux’s Swifts prefer to roost in hollow old trees but frequently use brick chimneys as a substitute. Vaux’s Swifts cannot perch because they have weak feet so they must clutch the rough surface of wherever they roost.
Prior to entering the chimney, the swifts often gather in great numbers and circle the chimney. As they begin to enter the chimney, they change from their head-ﬁrst direction and go in tail ﬁrst. Once in the chimney, they overlap one another in “shingle” fashion to conserve body heat. They often slow their metabolism to a near-dormant state to conserve energy while roosting.
About the Vaux’s Swifts Migration
Each September thousands of migrating Vaux’s Swifts roost in Monroe School District’s Frank Wagner Elementary School chimney to rest while on their southern migration from north-western Canada and Washington State to Central America and Venezuela.
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