Chimney Swifts at the Naval Cemetery Landscape

Chimney Swifts at the Naval Cemetery Landscape

Guest Author: Loyan Beausoleil

Photo credit: Peter Finley | Macaulay Library

What do you expect to see when you visit the Naval Cemetery Landscape in Brooklyn? Native plants, butterflies and birds are all expected. But wait, what’s that? Is it a bat, is it a plane, is it a bird? It’s your friendly neighborhood Chimney Swift!

Chimney Swifts are a globally threatened, vulnerable species…and they love the Naval Cemetery Landscape, which is one of the few places in NYC where you can see these birds up close in action as they catch insects right out of the air, swooping low over the native plant meadowIn the summer and fall when insects are most active, the NCL’s unique, pesticide-free habitat provides high-quality insect food resources for NYC’s vulnerable Chimney Swifts.

These unusual urban birds are especially important because of the ecological benefits they provide. They eat the small, biting insects that like to eat us – including potentially dangerous ones such as the Aedes mosquitoes, which are rapidly expanding their range over much of North America.

Chimney Swifts breed in the Eastern half of the U.S. from May to October and are typically quite hard to see:

  • Chimney Swifts often forage by swooping and diving high above the city in search of small, flying insects.
  • These remarkable birds have tiny feet and cannot perch upright. When they come to rest it is away from human eyes: hidden in a masonry chimney or a specially-made swift tower where they cling to the vertical wall to sleep, well out of view from curious observers.
  • The Swifts nest like this, too – using their sticky saliva to glue twigs to a vertical wall.
  • And every other aspect of their lives is done on the wing!


So if you want to see Chimney Swifts in action, make sure to come by the Naval Cemetery Landscape. Look for their distinctive silhouette in the sky, with a small body and curved wings. If you’re lucky and you’re patient, these incredible birds will delight you with their skillful, acrobatic flight low over the native-plant meadow as they pursue ample insect prey. 

Chimney Swift Conservation:

 You can help Chimney Swifts by supporting projects (such as the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative!) which help to increase biodiversity, natural landscapes, and beautiful places for people, plants, insects and birds. Find out more about urban Chimney Swift conservation and how you can help.

About the Author:

Loyan Beausoleil is a formal educator in NYC and the Bird Program Manager for Washington Square Park Eco Projects. Her interest in birds overlaps with a background in art and science education, and has inspired the development of early childhood bird curriculum, community science and conservation actions, and educational workshops as ways to share her passion with others.  She is completing an advanced degree in Biology with a focus on avian survey methods and Chimney Swift conservation. Loyan is interested in how education, biology and art intersect to provide people with greater access to nature, shared outdoor experiences and opportunities for local engagement through stewardship and conservation. She leads community bird finding events for Washington Square Park Eco Projects, The Inwood Hill Parks Conservancy, The Lower East Side Ecology Center, and at Governor’s Island.

About the NCL:

The Naval Cemetery Landscape, developed by BGI and opened to the public in 2016, is an award-winning 1.7-acre contemplative memorial landscape and pollinator habitat. The NCL was designed to provide local residents and other visitors with a respite from the stresses of urban life while adding vital open space and native plant habitat to a park-starved area of Brooklyn.

About Brooklyn Greenway Initiative:

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to the development, establishment and long-term stewardship of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway – a 26-mile protected and landscaped route for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities that, when complete, will connect Brooklyn’s storied and iconic waterfront, parks and open space, commercial and cultural corridors, and new tech and innovation hubs for 2.65 million Brooklyn residents, over 1.1 million people who work in Brooklyn, and more than 15 million annual visitors from across the City and around the world.

For more information:

NCL Instagram

BGI website


Elizagrace Madrone – Development & Communications Manager :