Swift Watch

During the month of September, head to Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland to see an incredible sight. One hour before sunset, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts gather overhead as they prepare to roost for the night. Migrating swifts often use chimneys as roosts (places to sleep), and they are likely to return to the same roost year after year. One population has been returning to Chapman since the 1980s, and is one of the largest known roosting sites of migrating Vaux’s Swifts.

Swift watching has become a popular activity at Chapman, and on many evenings, more than 2,000 people gather to watch these aerial acrobats. On most evenings, Portland Audubon volunteers will be on hand to share information about this remarkable species.

What You Need to Know

Arrive one hour before sunset any night in September. Many folks bring blankets or chairs as they sit on the lawn and watch the Swifts overhead.

Check out the nightly swift count numbers to see how many birds roosted at Chapman Elementary the night before.

Have questions about Swift Watch? Email volunteer Robert Lockett.

Parking

Free Swift Watch parking is available at Montgomery Park and SELCO Community Credit Union. Do not expect to find street parking.

  • Montgomery Park is located six blocks from Chapman at 2701 NW Vaughn St. Note: from the Chapman area, NW Vaughn cannot be accessed from NW 27th, 28th or 29th Ave.
  •  SELCO Community Credit Union is located at NW 25th and Thurman. Note: The SELCO lot will be available each night any time after 6:00 p.m.

Three Ways You Can Be a Great Neighbor

Please be a good neighbor to Chapman-area residents:

  • Do not expect to find on-street parking.
  • During the event, leash and pick up after dogs.
  • After the event, pick up your trash and do not loiter on school grounds.
  • It is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages or smoke on public school grounds.
Vaux's Swift
Vaux's Swifts enter the Chapman Elementary School Chimney, photo by Scott Carpenter