Chimney Swifts

What Are Chimney Swifts?

Chimney Swifts or American Swifts are protected birds that migrate to North America every spring. These birds are unique in that their bodies aren’t designed to perch, but to cling to rough, vertical surfaces. Although they traditionally prefer to nest inside of hollow trees, many of these preferred habitats have disappeared in North America in the past several years. As more and more trees are removed for development, Chimney Swifts are forced to raise their families elsewhere. For this reason, more and more homeowners are now finding Chimney Swift nests inside of their chimneys.

Although these birds are considerate enough to nest when your chimney is typically unused (March-November), some problems may still arise. One problem is that their nests can sometimes fall out of the chimney and into your fireplace. An event like this can leave you with dead Swift babies, a messy nest to clean up, and possibly a confused Chimney Swift flying through your home.

Another inconvenience is that until the babies are old enough to feed themselves, they can be chatty little fellows. This means that for the first few weeks of their stay, you may find them to be quite noisy houseguests.

The good news is, if you’ve got a Swift problem, you won’t have a bug problem. A family of Chimney Swifts can consume more than twelve thousand mosquitos, gnats, termites and biting flies in a single day.

Because Chimney Swifts are a protected migratory species, there is nothing you can do should you find yourself hosting a family. There are, however, things you can do to:

  • Keep Swifts out of your chimney
  • Keep your chimney waterproofed but still available to Swifts
  • Prepare for or clean up after Swifts

Put A Cap On It!

Installing a chimney cap not only prevents water from leaking into your chimney and causing serious structural problems, it can also effectively keep Chimney Swifts out of your chimney. Most homeowners opt for caps because they save money in the long run. By keeping water, debris, and animals out, caps can save the homeowner thousands of dollars in damage. There are many different types and styles of chimney caps, from purely functional to decorative. If you are thinking about having a cap installed on your chimney, give us a call today! We are more than happy to discuss the options with you.

A Way In

Some people elect to either install a chimney cover with side-openings, or to have their chimney cap removed during the warm months. Both of these options allow Chimney Swifts to share the chimney with the homeowner. However, both of these options increase your chances of having other unwanted house guests and possible chimney damage.

Before And After

Regardless of your decision, it is important to have your chimney regularly inspected and maintained for your safety (and the safety of the Swifts, should your chimney be their home away from home). A professional chimney sweep should thoroughly inspect your chimney before nesting season, to remove any creosote buildup. Creosote buildup is one of the biggest factors in falling nests, and should be cleaned out for your safety as well, as it is highly flammable. In addition, to prepare for a possible Swift family, your chimney sweep should make sure that the damper is inspected and closed during the warmer months. A closed damper will keep Chimney Swifts from accidentally entering your home, and will also act as a sound barrier. You should try to have this inspection conducted before March gets under way, because if a family of Chimney Swifts has already made your chimney home, a sweep cannot disturb the nest.

In the fall, after Chimney Swifts have headed back home, it is vital that you have your chimney system inspected before lighting your first fire of the season. This is to ensure that, have you had any houseguests, they are no longer living in your chimney. A sweep will also make sure that all debris and traces of inhabitation are safely removed, so as to prevent a chimney fire. At this time, your sweep will open the damper, and either inspect the chimney cap for damage or debris, or reinstall the chimney cap, if you had it removed for Chimney Swifts.

For more information on Chimney Swifts, or to schedule your annual inspection, give us a call today!