Learning About Chimney Swifts
by Dave Lamb – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve heard some cheeping coming from your chimney, you probably have been a victim of a Chimney Swift nesting. And while the noises may have vanished with the coming of the cold, the remnants of these nestings and the future hosting job you inevitably have, still lingers behind. Chimney Swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This Federal Law prohibits the removal of any migrating bird without a federal permit. On top of that, due to the nature of migratory birds, if you had a nest in your chimney last year, you can expect the flock to return, to the exact same chimney. Therefore, if your goal is to keep the birds at bay, the problem must be taken care of in the proper manner at the proper time. On the other hand, you may wish to keep these little creatures around. In this article we will discuss how to keep Chimney Swifts away and also how to best handle providing a good home for these birds that is beneficial for you as well as for the Chimney Swifts.
Listen to the Sound of Swifts in a Chimney
About Chimney Swifts
The most common migrating birds typically found in the Eastern United States are Chimney Swifts. These birds are unique little creatures. They are often mistaken as bats due to their rapid flight and their likelihood to reside in chimneys. But up close, these birds look very distinct. While they only weigh about an ounce and their body is only about 5 inches long, their wings span approximately 12 inches! Their wings have a unique shape to them, like thin half moons. In addition to their different wing design, unlike other birds, Chimney Swifts are not able to perch horizontally such as on tree branches and if they do end up landing on the ground or another flat surface, it is difficult for them to get into the air again. This difficulty with level ground is because their legs and feet are designed specially to hold onto the vertical walls of chimneys. In fact, they mostly live in the air and typically only land to sleep at night and raise their young. Rough vertical surfaces provide the resting places for these birds and a place to build their nests. Their nests are built onto the chimney walls using their sticky saliva and little sticks and twigs they gathered in flight. These birds live off of all types of insects which they catch while in flight. During the summer months they migrate to the North and when the weather turns chilly, the birds head to South America to avoid the cold.
Why Should I Care?
The Chimney Swift population in Connecticut is rapidly declining at about 4 percent annually. Historically, these birds would nest in hollowed out trees and structures, but with the destruction of forests and decline of their natural habitat, these birds adapted and began nesting in masonry chimneys. This adaptation allowed the birds to survive in more diverse habitats but now with more and more chimneys being capped and metal flue liners installed, their expanded habitat is decreasing once again. The chimney caps keep the birds from entering the stone structure in the first place and metal flue liners do not have enough rough surfaces for the birds to hang onto. In fact, uncapped metal chimney liners pose a threat for Chimney Swifts, as the birds can easily get trapped inside.
Chimney Swift migration season starts in late March and then they are gone by the first signs of winter in early November. Therefore, once the Chimney Swifts have arrived and chosen your chimney to build their nest, you must leave them alone till they leave in the Fall. You may not even realize the birds are nesting until the young make noises when the parents bring home food. This is the only time the birds will create a ruckus and it always takes place about 2 weeks before they take flight on their journey to the south. But there is one major benefit to keeping Chimney Swifts around, the little birds eat about a third of their weight in insects every day. This includes troublesome mosquitoes, termites, beetles, and many other tiny pests. You can even consider the minor disturbances at the end of their stay as your only sacrifice for enjoying a bug free summer!
Many bird lovers actually construct special towers designed to house the visiting Chimney Swifts as they migrate into the area looking for places to nest. You can find easy to build Chimney Swift Towers online and construct one near enough to your home that you can enjoy watching the birds, but far enough away that they will not create any problems. If your chimney is capped, they will look for the next best thing and find your tower. Some communities that are known as annual nesting grounds have constructed large towers for these migrating birds. The swifts favor larger chimneys, so abandoned factories with smokestacks are a favorite place for a summer home.
How to Properly Host Chimney Swifts
These protected creatures need a place to live and it is very simple to provide a home for Chimney Swifts without any harm to your chimney, if you follow some very simple rules.
• Have your chimney cleaned of creosote and buildup before the Chimney Swifts arrive in the Spring to ensure the chimney is a safe and clean habitat. Also, have another cleaning done after the birds leave and before you begin to light the fire to ensure the nest has been removed and the chimney is in good working condition.
• To attract these birds for nesting, leave your chimney cap off and damper closed if you have a clay tile liner or masonry chimney during the Spring and replace the cap again in the Fall once the birds have left.
• During the nesting time, make sure the dampers are left closed to prevent the baby birds from falling down the chimney shaft.
• If one of the babies falls from the nest and ends up on your hearth, simply help the little bird by gently placing him on the wall of the chimney so that he can climb back up to the nest.
• Enjoy and insect free summer!
Chimney Swifts are harmless birds that are running out of places to live and it doesn’t take much effort to provide a home for them.
How do I keep the birds away?
While fostering a family of protected birds may be a fun activity for some families, others may not want to be troubled by the little creatures. If you act during the right time, preventing the nesting of Chimney Swifts is a very simple task. After finding Chimney Swifts nesting in your chimney, wait till they have migrated back to the south and have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Note that it is illegal for any chimney sweep to remove an active nest of migratory birds. If the chimney inspection reveals an active nest, reschedule the appointment to a date after the birds have moved on. It is important to have the nest and other remnants of the birds removed from the chimney once the Chimney Swifts have moved on to prevent fire hazards. Then, the best solution to prevent any further nesting is to put a chimney cap on the chimney. This will not only prevent the birds from nesting again, but it will also protect your chimney from leaves, rain water, other animals and numerous other things from getting into and creating problems with your chimney. Keeping the birds out is a simple fix and furthermore, a chimney cap is a good addition to any chimney anyway.
Whether you appreciate the company or would rather steer clear of the commitment, it is important to know about the residents of your chimney.
When Chimney Swifts Move In It Is Quite A Sight – Watch This Video!