Every year thousands of people make their way to Chapman Elementary School during the month of September to watch the Vaux’s Swifts gather in the sky, and funnel into the chimney to roost for the night.
Planning your trip to see the Vaux’s Swifts? Read below for everything you need to know.
When will the swifts be in Portland this year?
During the month of September.
When should I arrive?
Plan to arrive one hour before sunset. Allow extra time to park or take public transit and walk to the school. The swifts begin gathering in the sky above the Chapman School neighborhood in large numbers 40-60 minutes before sunset. Closer to sunset, the swifts begin circling directly above the school chimney in a large swirling flock – this is a dramatic sight and ideally you should be there before it begins. The birds begin to enter the chimney within 10-30 minutes after sunset. Entry time is between 10 and 20 minutes.
Timing can vary as the season progresses and according to different weather conditions. During rainy conditions the swifts may go to the roost early or even spend the day in the chimney if conditions are not favorable for foraging for insects.
Do not expect to find parking near the school! Please DO NOT drive up NW Pettygrove Street past NW 26th Avenue – it is a dead end and turn-around traffic creates a difficult and dangerous situation.
How many swifts will be at Chapman?
The number of swifts roosting in the Chapman chimney varies from year to year, and we can’t predict what this year will bring. We will post current numbers as they become available on our Swift Counts page. To get an idea of the number of birds that come to Chapman, here are our swift counts from 2018:
~ 3,090 swifts on Sept. 1
~ 7,530 swifts on Sept. 14
~ 310 swifts on Sept. 29
Prior to 2004, as many as 35,000 swifts had been counted in one evening. More recently, high estimates have been around 10,000 swifts.
How long will the swifts be there?
Swifts will most likely be roosting at Chapman through the end of September or even early October but will decrease in numbers by then. The best viewing is during the first three and a half weeks of September.
Will the Portland Audubon be there?
Yes, most nights of the week from Sept. 1-30. Volunteers and staff will have information about swifts, raptors, and opportunities to learn more about the Audubon Society of Portland.
What facilities are nearby?
- Bathrooms: Public restrooms are located in the NE corner of Wallace Park, very close to the intersection of NW 25th Ave and NW Overton Street. Port-a-potties will also be available. Please use them!
- Garbage: Garbage cans are located at 26th & Pettygrove and in Wallace Park. Please use them!
Where is the school?
- Chapman Elementary School is west of NW 25th Ave between NW Pettygrove and NW Raleigh.
- Portland Audubon volunteers will be present at a table on the viewing hill above the playing field near the Swift Information Kiosk
What do I need to bring?
- Bring something comfortable to sit on or in.
- Bring binoculars and a curious mind.
What can I do to make it a positive experience?
- Be respectful of the neighborhood, its residents, and other swift watchers.
- Please take all of your waste with you and dispose of it properly.
- Bear in mind that 500–3,500 people descend on the neighborhood every night for a month!
- Treat the neighborhood as if you lived there.
- Drinking alcohol is illegal on school grounds.
- Smoking is illegal on school grounds.