Swifts return to Chapman Elementary, roosting in larger numbers and earlier than usual

The annual bird migration stop draws crowds of people to the Northwest Portland site throughout September.

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Vaux’s swifts have returned to Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland. 

Throughout September, the little birds will roost in the school’s decommissioned smokestack chimney, a sleeping spot on their migration route to Central America. The birds begin circling over the chimney about an hour before sunset each night, then slowly descend in a tornado-shaped spiral. The spectacle draws large crowds of people each night.

“I think it’s a quintessential Portland activity,” said Sabrina Sheehy. “Combining nature with community.”

Each night, volunteers with Portland

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