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. During this laid back time, communities of people may engage with nature in different ways, be it through cheers of excitement, gazing in wonder, and more. On most evenings, Bird Alliance of Oregon volunteers will be on hand to share information about this remarkable species.

Here’s a video of them funneling in at dusk. And here’s a video of them funneling back out in the morning.

What You Need to Know

Swift Watch occurs at Chapman Elementary School during the month of September. Arrive one hour before sunset any night during the month. Many folks bring blankets or chairs as they sit on the lawn and watch the Swifts overhead.

Read our FAQs for more detailed information.

You can also check here to see how many swifts are counted each night by our community scientists.

Getting There

Please note, street parking is difficult to find during Swift Watch.

Public Transport: Trimet buses #77 and #15 stop at NW Vaugh and 26th, a 5 min walk from the Chapman Elementary.

Biking: Ride your bike and find bike racks within the park by the basketball courts.

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. There is free parking at the West parking lot at Montgomery Park after 5:30 p.m. Enter off NW Wardway.
  • 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