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Take Cover The Birds Are Coming!
It's Swift Night Out in Monroe

September 09, 2017

What Swift bird looks like.
Chronicle staff

(MONROE, WA) -- They're wild, they're wacky they're fun and cracky just like loco weed tobaccy.

They sail through the air, do dive bomb runs, tell jokes and generally have more fun than a barrel full of rhesus monkeys and three armadillos.

That was our lead-in last year at this time to what has now become an annual tradition in Monroe and you guys went nuts over it (the story that is, not just the lead-in).

You thought it was the funniest thing since Donald Trump in a diaper doin' the Duck Walk in Denver.

You told us so. Brother did we get emails. From everywhere. And some of them, we gotta tell you, were pretty weird.

You might be surprised at how many weirdos contact newspapers on a regular basis. Why, we got a phone call three days ago that would send.....well, never mind. Homeland Security took care of that.

But we digress.

The annual tradition we speak of is, of course, the Swift birds returning each year to Monroe on their annual migration to Nevada to play the slots.

Big Bird comes home. Make that small bird.

The 2017 version of "Swift Night Out" takes place Sat. Sept. 9 (today) from 4 pm to dusk at the Wagner Center in Monroe (the old Frank Wagner Elementary School) at 639 Main Street.

It's a hoot n' a holler for the whole family as the bird experts will testify in open court if required to do so.

Besides the little birdies themselves you got your games for kids, crafts, education booths (about birdies) food you buy (it's a fundraiser) and just an evening of relaxed, quality time with the family, assuming the family isn't too dysfunctional.

This is the annual event where thousands of small birds called Swifts (the correct name is “Vaux’s Swifts”, pronounced “voxes” like “foxes”) on their migratory journey from Canada to Central America stop and hold up awhile to rest in the chimney at the old elementary school – by the thousands.

It's really quite a sight to see. The annual Monroe stop is the 2nd largest "roost" of Vaux’s Swifts in America.

Why they picked that particular chimney out of millions of others is one of the great mysteries of life.

The birds themselves

The 4 to 5-inch long winged travelers are the smallest and most numerous of the Swift species in Washington State. They spend much of their time in the air and forage, eat, drink, court, collect nesting materials and mate all in flight.

Which is why they are so tired all the time and have to hold up in chimneys.

Vaux’s Swifts prefer to roost in hollow old trees but frequently use brick chimneys as a substitute, evidently because hollow old trees are in short supply these days.

Vaux’s Swifts cannot "perch" on anything, as most normal birds do, because they have weak feet (from tap dancing all the time) so they must clutch the rough surface of wherever they roost.

Prior to entering the chimney, the swifts often gather in great numbers and circle the chimney in a voodoo air dance. As they begin to enter the chimney, they change from their head-first direction and go in tail first.

Once they are inside the chimney, they overlap one another in “shingle” fashion to conserve body heat. They often slow their metabolism to a near-dormant state to conserve energy while roosting.

Free parking is available at Monroe City Hall, Frank Wagner Elementary and ADA parking is available across from the center at Windermere Real Estate.

The video below was put together a few years ago by the National Audubon Society. It tells the whole story. The truth and nothing but the truth.

For more information. www.monroeswifts.org



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