Northwest Portland

'Swift Watch' begins at Chapman Elementary

'Swift Watch' begins at Chapman Elementary
Vaux’s Swifts are using the Chapman chimney as an evening roost during their fall migration, so grab a seat on the school lawn and in neighboring Wallace Park to observe the birds gathering overhead. File photo - Kai Hayashi, KATU.com.

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's a tell-tale sign that fall is just around the corner when the Vaux's Swifts start circling around Chapman School's chimney.

Every September, thousands of the small birds call the chimney home for a few weeks as they migrate from the Pacific Northwest to Central America and Venezuela.

And every year, crowds gather all month long to watch what's been described as beautiful, magical and amazing.

According to the Audubon Society of Portland, the swift population that shows up at Chapman School every year has been doing so since the 1980s. The school's chimney is actually one of the largest known roosting sites for the birds.

If You Go

The basics

  • The swifts will be there through the month of September and are best viewed in the evenings, one hour before sunset.
  • Chapman School is located at 1445 N.W. 26th Avenue.
  • Parking is limited so you might think about taking a bus there instead.
  • If you bring your dog, have some bags handy so you can pick up after them.
  • Be sure to pick up your trash when you leave.
  • Both smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited on the school's grounds.
  • For more information on watching the swifts

New this year

  • Swift Watch parking is now available at Montgomery Park, located six blocks from Chapman at 2701 NW Vaughn St.
  • Street parking near the event is in very short supply, so the City of Portland is increasing parking and traffic enforcement in the Chapman neighborhood.
  • Portable bathrooms and additional trash cans will be provided.
  • Portland park rangers will be on-site to ensure safety and enforce existing bans on alcohol and tobacco use.

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