Migratory Birds Sweep into DTLA

Every autumn, Angelenos make their way downtown at sunset, turning their eyes towards the night sky to catch a glimpse of Vaux’s swifts as they make their migration south.

Vaux’s swifts (pronounced voxes) are a bit of a mystery. We don’t know where they spend the winter or much about their migration path. But we do know that they like to roost in chimneys—and Downtown LA chimneys are a favorite pit stop every year. Vaux’s swifts originally did not spend the night in chimneys. They’re natural habitat is hollow trunks and branches of old and dead trees. However, as fewer and fewer trees exist on their migratory route down south, the thousands of birds began to cling to the bricks on the inside of chimneys, sometimes in overlapping layers.

When the Vaux’s swifts fly into town this year, they will be met by throngs of birdwatchers, perched on benches and folding chairs, watching as the birds fill the evening sky, swooping and whirling together in a gyre before plunging into a chimney to rest for the night. We’ve actually spotted them along the LA River, hunting for insects before heading to the chimneys for a post-feast nap.

Vaux’s swifts have been known to change their overnight locations in Los Angeles as buildings are renovated and previously favored chimneys are abandoned. Thankfully DTLA has other options for our favorite migratory friends.

If you’d like to watch these cigar-shaped birds make their nighttime chimney sweep, check eBird.org regularly for sightings. Then, set up a spot in one of these locations about 6:15pm and keep your eyes on the sky:

  • Chester Williams Building: 215 W 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
  • Crocker Citizen’s National Bank: 453 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
  • Abandoned Nabisco Bakery near the Loft District: 1855 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
  • 40 South Broadway Parking Lot: 440 South Broadway, Los Angeles, 90013
  • Spring Arts Tower: 453 S Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Any birdwatchers that catch sight of the Vaux’s Swifts are welcome to post a photo in the comments below!

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