Like clockwork, thousands of chimney swifts gathered at sunset in the skies over Fuquay Varina Middle School on Oct. 7. They seemed to appear from nowhere, first two or three, but eventually filling the sky by the thousands, like a flash mob. Twenty five people of all ages enjoyed the performance, where the weather was a perfect 70 degrees, clear, and with a full-moon as the backdrop, as the swifts eventually plunged into the chimney for the night.
These are migratory birds that travel all the way from Canada deep into South America, and they are the fastest flying animal in the world! They spend all day in the air, as they are unable to stand or perch, except when they roost together at night by clinging inside a chimney. Like other insectivores, the chimney swifts have suffered a significant decline over the last 50 years, largely due to the use of pesticides, having lost more than 19 million birds, a staggering 65% decline since 1970! Increased awareness of the importance of protecting and supporting insects in our ecosystem will hopefully begin to slow that decline, and we hope to enjoy this wonderful performance for generations to come.