- Black Swifts are recognized by their black plumage, streamlined body and long, curved and pointy wings.
- Black Swifts are present in Banff National Park from late spring until fall. They may be seen singly or in small flocks, flying in and out of canyons or foraging high above for flying insects.
- Black Swifts nest in canyons often near or behind waterfalls. Each year they lay a single egg in a mossy nest in shallow pockets or ledges along cliff walls.
- Both parents care for and feed the chick, until it is ready to fly which may take up to 49 days.
Black Swift populations have declined by over 50% in the last 40 years. The cause(s) for their population decline are not fully understood, however, it may be related to changes in the availability of their food supply as they specialize on a diet of flying insects.
Canada hosts 80% of the North American population with only 0.1% found in Alberta. In 2019, the Black Swift was designated as an Endangered species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
Black Swifts in Johnston Canyon need our help!
In Banff National Park, Black Swifts are only known to nest in Johnston Canyon. Typically, they return to the same nesting location year after year, however their numbers have declined significantly over the past few decades. Minimizing disturbance to Black Swift nests is an important action people can take to protect and recover this endangered species.
From May 1 to November 15, areas of the canyon are closed to protect Black Swift nesting sites. Everyone visiting Johnston Canyon is required to stay on the official trail at all times – it is the law.
- In Banff National Park, Black Swifts and their nests are protected by law under the National Parks Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
- It is illegal to disturb Black Swifts and their occupied or unoccupied nests. Violators will be charged, be required to appear in court, and could pay fines up to $25 000.
- To report Black Swift nesting activity call 403-762-1470 and a Parks Canada Resource Conservation Officer will respond.
- If you witness anyone disturbing a Black Swift and/or its nest, observe, record and report this information to Banff Emergency Dispatch 403-762-1470, anytime day or night.