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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Chimney Swift in Canada


Global Range

The breeding range of the Chimney Swift (Figure 1) is essentially limited to eastern North America (Chantler and Driessens 2000; Chantler 1999), from southern Canada south to Texas and Florida (Gauthier and Aubry 1995; Chantler and Driessens 2000). It occasionally breeds in southern California and possibly Arizona (Sibley and Monroe 1990; Chantler and Driessens 2000). Approximately 26% of the species’ breeding range is in Canada. Chimney Swifts winter in the upper Amazon basin of South America, mainly in Peru, northeastern Ecuador and northwestern Brazil (Pearson 1980, Snow and Perrins 1998, Chantler 1999). It is also found in southern Ecuador, western Peru and northern Chile (Bloch et al. 1991, Demetrio 1993, Chantler 1999).

Figure 1: Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) Range

Figure 1: Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) range.

Red: breeding; yellow: migration; blue: winter. © 2005 NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Blvd. 15th floor, Arlington, Virginia 22209, U.S.A. All rights reserved. 28 September, 2005.

Canadian Range

In Canada the Chimney Swift breeds in east-central Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, probably Prince Edward Island and possibly southwestern Newfoundland (Godfrey 1986). The Canadian extent of occurrence is about 1 302 000 km2, while the area of occupancy is about 200 000 km2. The latter figure is estimated from Ontario and Quebec breeding bird atlases (100 km2 per occupied atlas square, 165 000 km2) plus an estimated 35 000 km2 in prairies and Atlantic Canada.

According to Smith (1996), the Chimney Swift is limited to the east central part of Saskatchewan. It is a confirmed breeder in Nipawin and individuals have been recorded in Raymore, Fort Qu’Appelle, Langenburg, Regina and Estevan (A.R. Smith, unpub. data). The Chimney Swift has been recorded breeding in southern Manitoba around Winnipeg, Dauphin, St. Laurent, Indian Bay, Steinbach, Portage la Prairie and Selkirk (Godfrey 1986; Cleveland et al. 1988; Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature 1998; Taylor et al. 2003).

In Ontario, the Chimney Swift breeds as far north as the 49th parallel (Peck and James 1983; Cadman et al. 1987), though most birds are concentrated along the southern edge of the province (Figure 2). The most northerly record is of birds in the vicinity of Pickle Lake (51.4° latitude north) (Helleiner 1987). Historical records suggest that it formerly occupied much the same range as it does today, at least in the southern half of the province (Helleiner 1987).

Figure 2: Relative Population density of Chimney Swifts in Ontario

Figure 2. Relative population density of Chimney Swifts in Ontario, based on the first 4 years’ data from the second Breeding Bird Atlas Project (2001-2004; M. Cadman, unpubl. data).

Based on the first 4 years’ data from the second Breeding Bird Atlas Project (2001-2004; M. Cadman, unpub. data).

In Quebec it breeds in the southern half of the province, except Anticosti Island and the Magdalen Islands (where it is an accidental visitor), as far as Abitibi in the northwest and on the Upper North Shore in the northeast (Cyr and Larivée 1995; Lemieux and Robert 1995; David 1996). It was not reported breeding north of the 49th parallel in the Breeding Bird Atlas; the most northerly Atlas records are from St. Maurice de Dalquier in Abitibi, the La Mothe Reservoir in the Saguenay–Lac St Jean region and Forestville on the Upper North Shore (Lemieux and Robert 1995). Swifts have been reported at Matamec and Harrington Harbour on the Middle and Lower North Shores, but there are no Atlas records (Lemieux and Robert 1995). The Chimney Swift also turns up as an accidental visitor in regions well north of its known breeding range. One was seen in Digges Sound, near the 60th parallel in the extreme northwestern tip of Quebec, in August 1980 (Gaston et al. 1985).

According to the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of the Maritime Provinces (Erskine 1992), the Chimney Swift breeds in most regions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton Island. However, the species is scarce in regions adjoining the Northumberland Strait. Based on Godfrey (1986), Chantler and Driessens (2000) reported that the Chimney Swift breeds on Prince Edward Island. However, Erskine (1992) says that few individuals were observed there during the Maritime Provinces atlas project and describes breeding as probable but unconfirmed in that province. Montevecchi and Tuck (1987) list the Chimney Swift as a breeder in Newfoundland; there are numerous sight records at Codroy in southwestern Newfoundland, but there is no breeding evidence (Godfrey 1986).