From the Blog

The Chapman Swifts

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At dusk on Thursday, we walked a few blocks up from my neighborhood to the more residential section of northwest Portland.  We did this to watch birds fly into a chimney.  Thousands of them.  Birds.  Flying into a chimney.

You might think I was joking just now when I said I spent my evening watching birds fly into a hole.  Because, you know, my social engagements are far too demanding.  But no. I seriously trekked a few blocks to witness this natural phenomenon.   We weren’t the only ones.

Thousands, thousands of birds swarm over the sky of the Chapman Elementary in an annual spectacle that occurs for three weeks in September.  Vaux Swifts migrate from Canada to South America and roost in this chimney.  The estimates go from 5000 to 35,000 swifts.  Someone has counted them.

Chapman Swifts 9.18.08 from Mile73 on Vimeo.

You almost didn’t believe me, did you?  There were probably about 500 people there watching.  Families, couples, dogs, kids and babies.  As the flock of birds undulated and regrouped, a peregrine falcon sliced through them.  They alternately chased it away and swirled to avoid it. The crowd cheered like a sporting event.

The swifts spiraled and circled the drain until it was nearly dark.  The last few disappeared into the stack and the crowd burst into applause.

It was a specatcle.  Totally worthwhile if you live in Portland.  Go see it.  I mean, all those birds fit in the chimney!  Come ON!


  1. My neighbors headed All The Way Across Town for this this. When they told me about it I said “a-huh? a-whah?”

    Well. Obviously I’m going to have to mark my Sept 09 calendar.

  2. SMM! It’s still going on! Every night for three weeks or so. The Audubon Society says until the end of September.

    You should check it out! Bring the kids!

  3. You should start some chants to go with the cheering and applause. When I root I root for the swifts…

  4. We here in PDX will do anything for a party. I’m curious if anyone has contacted the wineries so they can start serving at the event? LMAO!

  5. Wow. You Portlanders know how to have fun.

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