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Vaux's Swift, Laure Wilson Neish
Photo © Laure Wilson Neish

Photo: Laure Wilson Neish
Breeding evidence - Vaux's Swift
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Vaux's Swift
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Vaux's Swift
Elevation plot

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Vaux's Swift
Chaetura vauxi
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
3 - 1346 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
18 85 391 88
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -2.14 (-5.43 - 1.29)Low
Canada1973 - 2012 -2.2 (-5.55 - 1.23)Low

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
   0.120.28 0.17
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
    0.14 0.06
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.3  0.12  0.17

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.14 0.140.04
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.07  0.06

Characteristics and Range The fast-flying, agile Vaux's (pronounced "vox's") Swift often impresses observers as it dashes above riparian groves or darts swiftly over pond surfaces snatching its insect prey. Nesting and communal roosting occur primarily in large, hollow trees, but occasionally chimneys are used as the Chimney Swift does in eastern North America. The Vaux's Swift is a migrant, breeding in western mountain ranges from southwest Alaska to central California, and wintering in southern Mexico and Central America, where there is also a resident population.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Vaux's Swift is widespread across southern British Columbia, extending north along the length of the Coast Mountains to the St. Elias Mountains in the far northwest, and the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench and foothills. Most observations were made south of about 52░N. Although breeding was probable as far north as the Tatshenshini Basin, the most northerly confirmed breeding was in the Stikine River drainage. This distribution is similar to when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1990, but more confirmed nesting sites were found during the Atlas surveys.

The probability of observing a Vaux's Swift is highest in the Coast and Mountains, Georgia Depression, and Southern Interior Mountains ecoprovinces. Observations were made from sea level in the Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince to about 1,300 m in the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince, but it is most common between 250 and 500 m elevation, possibly coinciding with favoured nesting areas. The highest PObs and abundance values were all in the hemlock-dominated biogeoclimatic zones, where the swifts are attracted by large, hollow Western Redcedars (Thuja plicata).

Vaux's Swifts occupy heavily-forested as well as open portions of the preferred biogeoclimatic zones, with larger, hollow trees for nesting and roosting being typical features in late seral-stage habitats. Woodpecker cavities in live or dead trees of 0.5-1.1 m basal diameter are typical (Bull and Collins 2007). Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), Western Redcedar, Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii), Grand Fir (Abies grandis) and Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) trees can commonly attain the necessary size and provide the requisite cavities. Roost trees may be several kilometres from nest trees. Of 13 nests found in British Columbia before the Atlas, 8 were in chimneys in urban areas (Campbell et al. 1990). Ponds, open areas, and stream corridors within forested zones provide foraging sites, but swifts also forage at varying heights above the forest canopy.

Conservation and Recommendations Vaux's Swift is not considered of conservation concern in British Columbia. The province's global responsibility for conservation is considered low and Breeding Bird Survey data, although scant, suggest no clear long-term trend (Environment Canada 2011). Retention of older stands and cavity-bearing veteran nest trees should be part of forest harvesting plans. Retention of suitable anthropogenic structures such as unused chimneys would be useful in some urban areas.

Rick Howie

Recommended citation: Howie, R. 2015. Vaux's Swift in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Apr 2024]

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