Correction:an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the birds were to be spotted at Weniger hall. They will in fact be around Wiegand hall!
September marks a magical time when summer is just about over, and fall is right around the corner. While many of us are preoccupied with students once again descending upon our sleepy city, some of us are looking up and catching a glimpse of the illusive Vaux’s Swifts.
What the Heck is a Swift? Belonging to the same family as the hummingbird, swifts are fast flyers, covering as much as 200,000 kilometers in a single year. They have large wingtip bones, giving them the ability to maximize their efficiency and maneuverability. If you’re lucky enough to have seen them fly, you might have noticed that they kind of “flick,” and are always in motion.
What’s really special about the swifts is the way they all gather to roost just before sunset. Unlike their relatives, the Chimney Swifts, Vaux’s Swifts don’t usually nest in chimneys; they typically prefer natural cavities with vertical entranceways.
However, due to the loss of some old growth Douglas fir and forest snags, these little creatures have started using manmade structures when they’re ready to call it a night. They arrive a few at a time, until suddenly, there’s a swirling mass of fast-flapping birds circling their chimney of choice. When they’re ready, they dart down in a one steady stream. The spectacle is strangely satisfying to watch.
Where to See Them In Portland, the gathering of Vaux’s Swifts has become a popular attraction between mid-August and mid-October. People gather at Chapman Elementary School where North America’s largest concentration of Vaux’s Swifts roost each evening before eventually continuing their migration to Central America and Venezuela. Sometimes more than 2,000 people gather to watch these “aerial acrobats,” according to the Audubon Society of Portland.
We may not get as many Vaux’s Swifts here in Corvallis, but you can still witness this amazing event on the Oregon State University campus. Their chimney of choice seems to be that of Wiegand Hall, located just off 30th on Campus Way. Over the next couple weeks, take a stroll just before sunset and watch these little birds in action.