Hundreds of Migrating Vaux’s Swifts Roost at Chapman Elementary

By Xander Balwit

Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak

Early September marks one of Portland’s finest bird watching spectacles of the year. Every year for a few weeks, Vaux’s Swifts, native birds along the west coast, make their migration down towards and through Central America and Venezuela. These gregarious birds usually nest in hollowed out trees but when they are on the wing in numbers, an industrial chimney will do.

The brick chimney of Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland boards thousands of birds, with new flocks arriving every 3 to 4 days. This past week, an estimated 5000 birds were present and their numbers will spike this week.

Portland Audubon experts say that mid September has consistently been when the most Swifts roost at Chapman and this year, one Audubon volunteer says, “There could be as many as 1400 in a night.”

Portlanders have many a bird enthusiast among them and through fundraising, the school now has a separate heating system so the grand chimney is used solely for migration roosting. Migration will slow by the end of the month but right now this avion show is in full swing. Catlin Gabel Ornithology teacher, Paul Dickinson, says, “I plan on getting a group of students down there,” and he also reminds us not to pronounce the “x” in “Vaux’s”.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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