A black swift nest with egg behind a waterfall. 
(Caleb Putnam/Wikimedia Commons)

A black swift nest with egg behind a waterfall. (Caleb Putnam/Wikimedia Commons)

The Nature Nut

Rosamund Pojar

Recently, I saw a short article about birders spending time watching waterfalls in the hope of seeing a black swift either fly in through the falling water or fly out. This would indicate the possible location of a nest.

Looking through my books on data collected about black swifts in B.C., I discovered we have hardly any nest records for this enigmatic species and none for this area. However, we do see black swifts here and I remember being surrounded by them feeding when I was working in a cut block off Lawson Road south of Quick in the early 1990s.

At the time, another birder and I surmised that they might be nesting in the Telkwa Mountains where there are suitable cliffs.

Black swifts cannot perch like other birds and need vertical surfaces, like sheer cliffs, to land on. They appear to prefer to nest close to, or in behind, waterfalls in dark inaccessible places. Birds may be seen up to 40 km to even 120 km from the nest site.

They tend to feed high up in the sky unless it is overcast when they feed closer to the ground.

Despite the Black Swift being a blue-listed (at-risk) species, we have very little information about the bird and relatively few good nest records throughout its range.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity for bird lovers in this area of northwest B.C. to contribute to our knowledge of black swift biology and habitat use.

So, I am issuing a challenge to folks who like to get out into the backcountry to look for black swifts and possible nest sites and, if a nest is found, to provide photographic and/or videographic evidence.

Please send me any information about evidence of breeding (rpojar@gmail.com).

Vaux’s swifts, often described as “cigars with wings,” are also seen here.

Again, we do not have much information on them except for them being uncommon in the Bulkley Valley.

I have seen lots of them near Terrace, specifically on the lower slopes of Mount Elizabeth, which makes sense as they are more common in the wetter coastal and mountainous areas. Nest records are also few and far between. They like to nest in tree cavities, especially hollow western redcedar and sometimes in house chimneys.