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Overview

Distribution

Chaetura vauxi, commonly known as Vaux's Swift, can be found anywhere from southwestern Canada to the western United States, and in Mexico, Central America, and northern Venezuela. Their breeding range includes western North America from southeast Alaska, northwest and southern British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana south to central California. The southern breeding range consists of the Yucatan Peninsula, western Mexico, and as far south as Panama and Venezuela. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Vaux's Swifts that do indeed migrate reside north of Mexico and migrate south. They arrive in the north in late April to early May and migrate south between mid-August to late September. Swifts generally fly in large flocks. Swifts that live in southern regions are most likely residents. Swifts can be found during the winter time in central Mexico south to Middle America and Venezuela, sometimes in central California. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: southeastern Alaska, southern British Columbia, northern Idaho, and western Montana south to central California (migratory populations); also southwestern Tamaulipas and southeastern San Luis Potosi, Yucatan Peninsula, western Mexico south to Panama, and in northern Venezuela (resident populations) (AOU 1983, Bull and Collins 1993, Rappole 1995). NON-BREEDING: central Mexico south through breeding range in Middle America and Venezuela; casual in California, southern Louisiana, and western Florida (AOU 1983, Bull and Collins 1993).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Chaetura vauxi are the smallest swifts in North America. The length of their body is generally 11 cm. Size cannot be used to determine gender. Vaux's swifts are designed for speed; they posses an aerodynamic shape with long, pointed wings, short and blunt humeri, and a small body. These swifts have short legs and small feet. The bill is short and stout. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Both sexes have very similar plumage, plain grayish brown appearance sometimes highlighted by a slight green iridescence. "Rump and upper tail coverts range from a pale brownish gray to a duller shade like that of the back" (Wetmore 1957). The upper breast and throat area are paler than the rest of their underbelly. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Range mass: 15 to 22 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 12 cm

Weight: 17 grams

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Diagnostic Description

Differs from the chimney swift (CHAETURA PELAGICA) in smaller size, usually paler rump and ventral body plumage, shorter wings, and lesser tendency to soar.

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Ecology

Habitat

Vaux's Swifts generally can be found in old-growth forests consisting of coniferous and deciduous vegetation. Very important to swifts' nesting grounds are large, hollow trees that are either dead or alive. (Bull, Collins 1993)

During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts occupy forests of coast redwood and Douglas firs. They forage for food in naturally occuring openings in the forest and along streams as well as high above the tree-tops. In the Yucatan, swifts have been seen nesting on the sides of limestone wells. (Sutton and Phelps 1948)

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; forest ; scrub forest

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Found in mature forests but also forages and migrates over open country (Tropical to Temperate zone) (AOU 1983; Bull and Collins 1993). Forages over land and water. Often roosts in large flocks in hollow trees or chimneys just prior to and during migration (Bull and Blumton 1997, Eshbaugh 2000).

BREEDING: In North America, prefers late seral stages of coniferous and mixed deciduous/coniferous forests; more abundant in old-growth forests than in younger stands (Manuwal and Huff 1987, Gilbert and Allwine 1991, Huff and Raley 1991, Lundquist and Mariani 1991; Manuwal 1991; Bull and Collins 1993). In Washington, found more abundant in old-growth (> 250 years old) than in younger (< 165 years old) forest stands (Manuwal and Huff 1987), and more abundant in wet old-growth than mesic or dry old-growth (Manuwal 1991). In the southern Washington Cascade Mountains, abundance was positively correlated with high density of live trees >100 cm in diameter at breast height (mainly Douglas-fir [PSEUDOTSUGA MENZIESII], Western Hemlock [TSUGA HETEROPHYLLA], and Western Redcedar [THUJA PLICATA]) and with large snags (Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock; Lundquist and Mariani 1991). The multi-layered broken overstory of old-growth forests may also provide easier access to aerial insects than closed, continuous canopies of younger forests (Lundquist and Mariani 1991). In northern California, uses Douglas-fir forests but highest densities are in coastal redwood (SEQUOIA SEMPERVIRENS) habitats (Sterling and Paton 1996; CDFG 2000).

BREEDING AND WINTERING: In the neotropics, found in mixed coniferous-broadleaf, deciduous broadleaf, and broadleaf evergreen forests (Rappole et al. 1995). In Mexico, breeds in highlands, ranging into lowlands in migration or winter; although a disjunct population is resident on the Yucatan Peninsula (Howell and Webb 1995). In Honduras, common in humid Caribbean lowlands to interior highlands up to 2000m; one breeding record in cloud forest; flock also recorded feeding around a large almendro tree (DIPTERYX OLEIFERA) in an open field (Monroe 1968). In Costa Rica, resident in highlands (700-2000 m), occasionally ranging higher or into lowlands (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

NEST SITES: Nests are usually in large-diameter hollow trees, broken-top trees, or stumps; also in chimneys. Nest is a saucer-shaped structure of twigs and spruce or pine needles glued to interior vertical wall of hollow tree, stump, chimney, dark attic, or similar dark cranny. Usually locates nest near bottom of cavity (Baicich and Harrison 1997; Bull and Collins 1993).

In Oregon, nests have been recorded in live or dead Grand Fir (ABIES GRANDIS) and Bigleaf Maple (ACER MACROPHYLLUM) with hollow chambers where heartwood had decayed (Bull and Cooper 1991; Bull and Collins 1993). For 21 nests located in a northeastern Oregon study, nest trees averaged 67.5 cm diameter at breast height (range 45-96 cm) and 25 m tall (range 15-37 m), and usually occurred in old-growth forest with an average canopy closure of 71%. All of these nests were in trees hollowed out by Indian paint fungus (ECHINODONTIUM TINCTORUM) and with an entrance hole excavated by Pileated Woodpeckers (Bull and Cooper 1991). In Washington, one nest recorded in a broken-topped Western Redcedar (THUJA PLICATA) 10 m tall and 76 cm diameter at breast height in old-growth forest (Lundquist and Mariani 1991). In Montana, three nests recorded in old broken-topped Western Hemlock (TSUGA HETEROPHYLLA; Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963). Less typical records in cottonwood (POPULUS spp.) and sycamore (Platanus spp.; Taylor 1905). In British Columbia, the only confirmed tree nest was in a hollow Bigleaf Maple; there are several other records of birds seen entering or leaving Western Redcedars and Black Cottonwoods (POPULUS TRICHOCARPA), but nesting was not confirmed (Campbell et al. 1990, M. G. Shepard, pers. comm.).

ROOSTS: Two roosts were recorded in northeastern Oregon, both in Grand Fir trees 200-300 years old, > 100 cm diameter at breast height in old-growth forest stands (Bull 1991). Postfledging swifts in Oregon roosted in the nest tree (44% of juveniles, 64% of adults) or in trees up to 9.2 kilometers away. Roost trees were hollow, live or dead grand firs (94%) or ponderosa pines (6%), with an average DBH of 77 cm and an average height of 26 m (Bull and Blumton 1997). One record of birds roosting in the open: in southern California a large tight cluster was found on the trunk of a tamarisk tree (TAMARIX spp.; Stager 1965). In Oregon, the largest migratory roost (15,000 to 40,000 birds) is in a large brick chimney at a school in Portland (Eshbaugh 2000).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Breeding populations in U.S. and Canada make long migrations to Mexico, Central America and Venezuela (Bull and Collins 1993). A few winter irregularly in southern coastal lowlands of California (CDFG 2000). Resident throughout the year in Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela but may make local migrations to lowlands (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Howell and Webb 1995).

In Oregon, some left their nesting areas in late August and early September and were found at large communal roosts sheltering more than 500 swifts; these large roosts were used until mid-September when swifts left the study area (Bull and Blumton 1997).

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Trophic Strategy

The main foods consumed year round are insects and spiders. During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts soar above the forest canopy and swoop down, pausing at a tree to feed on insects flying near the tree. These swifts are generally spotted soaring above mature forests approximately 20 to 50 meters above the top of the canopy. (Bull, Collins 1993)

During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts feed both in flocks and alone. They capture prey mid-flight. When feeding nestlings, swifts return to the nest with a mouth full of food items. Generally, during the breeding season, these items consisted of flies, hoverflies, ants, bees, planthoppers, aphids, spindlebugs, lanternflies, bark beetles, moths, mayflies, true bugs, and spiders. (Bull, Collins 1993)

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Comments: Feeds on small flying insects; catches insects in the air. Feeds in long, continuous foraging flights high over varied habitats; also at lower levels over forest openings, burns, rivers and lakes (Grinnell and Miller 1944). In Oregon, foraged up to 5.4 km from the nest but mostly near the nest stand (Bull and Beckwith 1993). Often joins other swifts in feeding at edges of rainstorms (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Campbell et al. 1990). Feeds on leafhoppers, true flies; see Bull and Beckwith (1993) for extensive information on diet in Oregon.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Forages and migrates during day. May enter torpor in periods of cold weather (Terres 1980). Number of birds at two tree roosts monitored in northeastern Oregon ranged from 9 to 479, with highest counts in spring (Bull 1991). During migration can gather in very large roosting flocks; up to 40,000 regularly roost in one large chimney in Portland (Eshbaugh 2000), and other large chimney roosts occur in a variety of Oregon cities (Bull 2000) and in Los Angeles, California.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
61 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: There is little information concerning the lifespan of these animals, though they have been reported to live up to 5.1 years in the wild (Clapp et al. 1983).
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Reproduction

Vaux's swifts pair off around May shortly after arriving to the breeding grounds. In northeast Oregon swifts begin the construction of their nest during the month of June, while nest construction begins in May in western Oregon (Thompson 1977). Incubation occurs between mid-June and late July. Nestlings appear early July till early September. Fledglings develop between late July till early September. (Bull, Collins 1993)

As for parental behavior, incubation of the eggs starts only after the entire clutch of eggs is laid. Eggs are constantly wtached by both adults. Both adults share responsibility for incubating eggs. Mating and parenting is usually monogamous, but there are reports of three swifts feeding one brood. This suggests cooperative breeding, similar to that seen in the Chimney Swift. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 19 days.

Average eggs per season: 5.

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Nests singly or in small colony. Clutch size is 3-7 (usually 4-7). Incubation lasts 18-20 days (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Baicich and Harrison 1997). Young leave nest after 20-21 days; will perch on interior wall the nest is built on, but may not fly freely for up to another 7 days (Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963). At least some birds nest at one year of age (Bull and Collins 1996). Will return to same nest site (Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963; Bull and Collins 1996). In an Oregon study, 70% of 46 nest trees were re-used in subsequent years, and nest site fidelity was also high, with 14 of 15 marked birds recaptured at the same nest tree (Bull and Collins 1996).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Chaetura vauxi

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGCCTACTTATCCGAGCAGAACTTGGACAACCAGGGACCCTCCTAGGAGATGATCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTTACTGCTCACGCTTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCAATTATGATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCACTTATAATTGGAGCACCTGACATAGCCTTCCCACGAATAAACAATATAAGCTTTTGACTCCTTCCCCCATCATTCCTCCTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCAACAGTTGAAGCAGGAGCAGGAACAGGCTGAACTGTATACCCCCCACTAGCCGGCAATCTAGCCCACGCAGGAGCATCAGTAGACCTCGCTATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTAGCAGGTGTCTCCTCCATCCTAGGTGCAATCAACTTCATCACAACTGCCATCAATATAAAACCACCTGCCCTTTCACAATACCAAACACCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATTACCGCCGTCCTACTACTCCTCTCTCTCCCCGTCCTCGCTGCAGGCATCACTATACTCCTAACTGACCGTAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCAGCCGGAGGAGGTGATCCCATCTTATACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chaetura vauxi

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Vaux's Swifts have been experiencing some decline in their natural habitat due to the destruction of older forests, which they select as habitat due to the abundance of old, hollow trees. Also, chimneys are becoming less of an option due to the movement away from brick chimneys and towards insulated pipes. Old, hollow trees where Vaux's live are being saved on some National Forest lands. For the trees that do fall, action is taken to replace them.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4B - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Secure primarily because of large range; fairly common. Significant declines have been reported for some large areas (e.g. Washington State); status is poorly known in many areas. Breeding habitat threatened by large scale logging of old growth trees and large snags.

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Population

Population Trend
Increasing
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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: Trends in Latin America unknown. Numbers of swifts in Oregon forests declined significantly in the 1980s (-8.9% annual change) (Sharp 1992). North American Breeding Bird Survey data (Sauer et al. 2000) are problematical because of low sample sizes. However, BBS data indicate a survey-wide decline from 1980 to 1999 (-4.2% average annual decline; P = 0.07; N = 122 survey routes). Mapped BBS trends show centers of long-term decline in British Columbia, western Washington, and northern California. BBS data are most robust for Washington State, where a significant and steep decline is evident from 1980-1999 (-8.7% average annual decrease; P = 0.01; N = 31). BBS data for 1980-1999 also show a nonsignificant increase in Oregon (2.9% average annual increase; P = 0.58; N = 45), and nonsignificant declines in California (-2.1% annually; P = 0.46; N=17) and British Columbia (-5.5% annually; P = 0.35; N = 18). Sample sizes in Idaho and Montana are too small for adequate trend analysis.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: B : Moderately threatened throughout its range, communities provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure of the community over the long-term, but are apparently recoverable

Comments: Logging of older trees and hollow snags eliminates nest and roost habitat. "Forest health" management activities that reduce incidence of heartrot and aerial insects would also reduce potential habitat and prey. Factors that reduce abundance of Pileated Woodpeckers may in turn reduce cavity availability and impact swifts. Logging reduced old-growth habitats in the Pacific Northwest (Bull and Beckwith 1993). In California, where the species occurs in greatest abundance in coastal redwood forests, less than 10% of the original old-growth redwood forests remain (Sterling and Paton 1996). To a much lesser extent, swifts may be losing nesting possibilities where brick chimneys are replaced with insulated pipe or covered with screen spark-arresters (Bull and Collins 1993). Large migratory roosts in chimneys may be lost when chimneys are covered or replaced, or birds may even be killed by inadvertent use of the chimneys' furnaces, etc. (Eshbaugh 2000). Activities such as pesticide spraying that impact aerial insects could decrease food availability, but no data available.

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Management

Restoration Potential: The species will likely endure and flourish wherever forests are managed for mature and old-growth characteristics that include abundant, large hollow trees and snags and a healthy aerial insect fauna.

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Dependent on old-growth forests, with associated hollow trees and snags. The species' area requirements are unknown. There is some evidence that forest fragmentation alters the species' distribution on a local scale based on a survey in northern California, but the details need further study (Sterling and Paton 1996).

Management Requirements: Snag retention and conservation of mature and old-growth forests are essential. Key management elements are to maintain large diameter hollow trees and snags (e.g., > 50 cm diameter at breast height), recruit future suitable nest and roost trees, and maintain a high density of large live trees (e.g., > 100 cm diameter and breast height). Presence of tree heartrot, fire, woodpeckers, and other ecological components that create tree cavities and nest holes will benefit this species (Bull and Collins 1993). May use residual snags in logged stands, burns, or clearcuts to a limited extent (Sterling and Paton 1996) but the quality of these sites in relation to productivity and snag longevity is unknown. There may be an association with the presence of Pileated Woodpeckers (DRYOCOPUS PILEATUS), as Vaux's Swifts use cavities excavated by these woodpeckers and the two species' ranges closely overlap in the west (Bull and Cooper 1991; Sterling and Patton 1996). Healthy aerial insect populations over forest, lake and river habitats are important as prey base.

Management Research Needs: More detailed information is needed on the impacts of habitat alterations and various forest management activities, response to fire, response to human disturbance, and especially area needs and relationship to landscape patterns. Information is needed on abundance, productivity, dispersal and survival in relation to habitat and forest management scenarios. Need information on potential use of habitat corridors or watercourses for travel, migration routes, and stopover habitats. More detailed information is especially needed on habitat relationships, status, and threats to the species in Mesoamerica. There is a need for information on effectiveness of a nest box program for increasing local populations.

Biological Research Needs: With relatively few studies on this species, nearly all aspects of its life history need further investigation. More detailed information is needed on habitat use in varying parts of the species' range, patterns of abundance, dispersal, site fidelity, territory use, home range size, productivity and survivorship.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

Stewardship Overview: In North America, closely associated with old-growth forests and the presence of hollow and broken-top trees and snags (Carey 1989; Bull and Collins 1993; Lehmkuhl and Ruggiero 1991). Heavy logging of mature and old-growth forest in British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and coastal redwoods in the latter part of the 20th century have in all likelihood reduced the species' habitat significantly. Steep population declines are evident in the Pacific Northwest over the past twenty years (Bull and Collins 1993; Sauer et al. 2000).

Classified as a candidate for state listing in Washington (WDFG 2000). Classified as a "species of special concern" in California in 1994 (Sterling and Paton 1996). Considered a priority species for conservation in the Partners in Flight planning process for the southern Pacific rainforests physiographic region (extreme southwestern British Columbia, western Washington, western Oregon, and northern California; Pashley et al. 2000).

Species Impact: An insectivore, may be beneficial in controlling forest insect pests.

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Wikipedia

Vaux's swift

Vaux's swift (Chaetura vauxi) is a small swift native to North America and northern South America. It was named for the American scientist William Sansom Vaux.

Description[edit]

This is a small swift, even compared to other Chaetura species, at 10.7 to 11.2 cm (4.2 to 4.4 in) long and weighing 18 g (0.63 oz). The northern populations are slightly larger at 11.5 cm (4.5 in), probably according to the Bergmann's Rule and/or migration requirements. It has a cigar-shaped body, crescentic wings and a short bluntly squared-off tail. The head, upperparts and wings are dusky black, and the underparts, rump and tail coverts are greyish brown. The throat is paler grey, becoming whitish in northern birds. The sexes are similar, but juveniles have dusky bases to the throat feathers.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Vaux's swift breeds in highlands from southern Alaska to central California and from southern Mexico, the northern Yucatán Peninsula, to eastern Panama and northern Venezuela. The United States' populations are migratory, wintering from central Mexico south through the Central American breeding range. The resident breeding birds in the southern part of the range are sometimes considered a separate species, dusky-backed swift, Chaetura richmondi. Preferred habitats include old growth coniferous or deciduous forests consisting of coniferous and deciduous vegetation; requires large, hollow trees for nesting.

Behaviour[edit]

This is a gregarious species, with flocks of 30 or more birds, and often with other swift species, such as White-collared, especially at weather fronts. It flies with a mixture of stiff wing-beats and unsteady glides. It has more varied calls than others in the genus, with a mixture of chattering, buzzes, squeaks and chips.

Feeding[edit]

The swift feeds in flight on flying insects, including beetles, wasps, termites and flying ants. It forages over forests and more open areas, including towns.

Breeding[edit]

Vaux's swift breeds in the mountains and foothills, from southeastern Alaska and Montana to central California, mainly above 700 m (2,300 ft). It builds a cup nest of twigs and saliva on a vertical surface in a dark cavity, such as a tree hole, cliff crevice or attic. It lays three white eggs between March and July. It spends winters in the tropics.

Subspecies[edit]

The following subspecies are currently recognized:[2][3]

  • Chaetura vauxi andrei (von Berlepsch & Hartert, 1902): Eastern Venezuela.
  • Chaetura vauxi aphanes (Wetmore & Phelps, 1956): Northern Venezuela.
  • Chaetura vauxi gaumeri (Lawrence, 1882): Yucatan Peninsula and Cozumel Island (Mexico).
  • Chaetura vauxi ochropygia (Aldrich, 1937): Eastern Panama.
  • Chaetura vauxi richmondi (Ridgway, 1910): Southern Mexico to Costa Rica.
  • Chaetura vauxi tamaulipensis (Sutton, 1941): Eastern Mexico.
  • Chaetura vauxi vauxi (J. K. Townsend, 1839): Western Canada to southwestern USA.

Swifts at Chapman Elementary School[edit]

The "Chapman swifts" are part of a migratory population of Vaux's swifts that roost seasonally in the chimney of Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. This is North America's largest concentration of Vaux's swifts.[4]

Every evening from mid-August to mid-October, thousands of swifts gather in the sky over the school shortly before sunset. Count estimates of 1,700 to 35,000 swifts have been reported. Shortly after sunset, over a period of 10 to 30 minutes, they fly into the top of the brick chimney (constructed c.1925) to roost on the interior surface until they depart at sunrise.[5] The school is on the birds' migratory route to their wintering sites in southern Central America and Venezuela.[6]

The swifts attract several predators, such as Peregrine Falcons and Cooper's Hawks, as well as hundreds to thousands[5][7] of human spectators.[8]

History[edit]

The birds began using the site in the early 1980s in response to the loss of much of their natural roosting habitat — old growth Douglas-fir and forest snags.[9] Vaux's Swifts prefer roosting in standing hollow trees.[6]

To protect the swifts, the school stopped using its heating system during the weeks of roosting. Students and teachers wore sweaters and jackets, especially toward the end of September when classroom temperatures can drop to 50 to 60 °F (10 to 16 °C).[10] Around 2003, the Audubon Society of Portland, school fundraisers and corporate sponsors donated $60,000[9] to $75,000[11] for an alternate school heating system which is independent of the brick chimney. The chimney is now maintained solely for the use of the birds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Chaetura vauxi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Chaetura vauxi". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  3. ^ Gill F & D Donsker (Eds). 2014. IOC World Bird List (v 4.1). doi:10.14344/IOC.ML.4.1 www.worldbirdnames.org Accessed 9 March, 2014.
  4. ^ Jessica Martin (producer) (2000). Oregon Field Guide: Vaux Swift (Television production). Oregon Public Broadcasting. Event occurs at 0:02:12 – 0:02:18. Retrieved 2011-03-30. "Because here, not just a few, but up to 30,000 birds swoop down like a tornado at dusk, funneling into this giant chimney. It's the largest concentration of Vaux's Swifts in North America and a birdwatcher's paradise." 
  5. ^ a b "FAQs". Audubon Society of Portland. August 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  6. ^ a b "Living with Vaux's Swifts". Audubon Society of Portland. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  7. ^ "On The Wing: The Documentary Film about Portland's Chapman Swifts—Synopsis". Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  8. ^ OFG: Vaux Swift, 0:04:30
  9. ^ a b "Swifts Leave Chapman School Chimney in October". Hollywood Pet Hospital. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  10. ^ OFG: Vaux Swift, 0:05:25
  11. ^ "Vaux’s Swift". Backyard Bird Shop. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
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Vaux's Swift

Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi) is a small swift native to North America and northern South America. It was named for the American scientist William Sansom Vaux.

Contents

Description

This is a small swift, even compared to other Chaetura species, at 10.7 to 11.2 cm long and weighing 18 g. The northern populations are slightly larger at 11.5 cm, probably according to the Bergmann's Rule, and/or migration requirements. It has a cigar-shaped body, crescentic wings and a short bluntly squared-off tail. The head, upperparts and wings are dusky black, and the underparts, rump and tail coverts are greyish brown. The throat is paler grey, becoming whitish in northern birds. The sexes are similar, but juveniles have dusky bases to the throat feathers.

Distribution and habitat

Vaux's Swift breeds in highlands from southern Alaska to central California and from southern Mexico, the northern Yucatán Peninsula, to eastern Panama and northern Venezuela. The United States' populations are migratory, wintering from central Mexico south through the Central American breeding range. The resident breeding birds in the southern part of the range are sometimes considered a separate species, Dusky-backed Swift, Chaetura richmondi. Preferred habitats include old growth coniferous or deciduous forests consisting of coniferous and deciduous vegetation; requires large, hollow trees for nesting.

Behaviour

This is a gregarious species, with flocks of 30 or more birds, and often with other swift species, such as White-collared, especially at weather fronts. It flies with a mixture of stiff wing-beats and unsteady glides. It has more varied calls than others in the genus, with a mixture of chattering, buzzes, squeaks and chips.

Feeding

The swift feeds in flight on flying insects, including beetles, wasps, termites and flying ants. It forages over forests and more open areas, including towns.

Breeding

Vaux's Swift breeds in the mountains and foothills, from southeastern Alaska and Montana to central California, mainly above 700 m. It builds a cup nest of twigs and saliva on a vertical surface in a dark cavity, such as a tree hole, cliff crevice or attic. It lays three white eggs between March and July. It spends winters in the tropics.

Subspecies

The following subspecies are currently recognized:[2]

References

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: May constitute a superspecies with C. PELAGICA and C. CHAPMANI (AOU 1998). Populations in southern Mexico and in Yucatan Peninsula (and on Cozumel Island) formerly were treated as two separate species: C. RICHMONDI and C. GAUMERI (AOU 1983).

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