All About Chimney Swifts


Chimney swifts might be the only living animal that loves chimneys more than Santa! But unlike Santa, who’s in and out very quickly, these birds like to roost and build nests inside chimneys. Chimney swifts used to nest in hollow trees, but today they are almost always nesting in chimneys or other man-made structures. 

Chimney swifts are the only swift that occurs regularly in the east. They migrate in late summer, and hundreds or even thousands of these small birds can roost inside a single chimney. You’ll know that you have birds in your chimney if you hear a loud chattering of the swift nestlings coming out of your fireplace.

And when you call to have the swifts removed, you’re told that there’s nothing that anyone can do. This is because chimney swifts are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Originally passed in 1918 and amended in 1998, this law made hunting, capturing, injuring, removing or relocating chimney swifts illegal. This protects both the birds and their nests. 

Luckily, this annoyance is only short-lived as they tend to stay in your chimney for about a month. And for the first couple weeks, the chicks aren’t making any noises. So by the time you recognize that you have some chimney swifts, you won’t have to deal with them too long. 

Either way, it’s best to do what you can to keep them from getting into your chimney. In this post, we’ll talk about how to spot a chimney swift, what to do if one is in your chimney, and what you can do to keep this from happening in the future.  

How to Identify a Chimney Swift

Chimney swifts are very small birds with slender bodies and very long, narrow, curved wings. They also have round heads, short necks, and a short, tapered tail. And their bill is so wide and short that it’s hard to see. If you see one, you’ll see that they are dark gray-brown all over, with a slightly paler color around the throat. I’ve heard them compared to little “flying cigars.”
Chimney swifts are among the most aerial of all birds. They have feet, but they’re only useful for clinging to vertical surfaces. Because of this, chimney swifts eat, drink, mate, and even sleep while flying! 

Since the adult birds are out there flying all day, you can see that they primarily use your chimney as a place to build a nest and lay eggs. Chimney swift nesting begins in May and continues in August. The female chimney swift lays three to five eggs in a nest that she and her partner made from twigs broken from the tips of tree branches and glued together with saliva and attached to the inside wall of your chimney. 

Incubation for the eggs takes about 18 to 19 days, and when the babies hatch, they are pink and completely naked. Within a few days, the baby chimney swifts begin to develop black pinfeathers. Even before their feathers appear, the babies can climb, thanks to the sharp claws allowing them to cling onto textured surfaces. 

The baby chimney swift’s feathers begin to unfurl around 8 to 10 days after they are born, and by day 17 their eyes begin to open. By the time the babies are 21 days old, they will cling to the nest or the chimney wall, rear back, and flap their wings furiously until they are panting and out of breath. During this whole time, you may hear the baby birds chirping and begging their parents for food since the chimney swift parents catch insects to feed the babies. 

At about 30 days after the chimney swifts hatch, they will leave the chimney for their first flight. They will hang around the chimney for a few days, but eventually, they’ll migrate again. They can usually handle the first few cold fronts, but they will migrate south on the first major cold front that blows through in the fall, finally settling in the Amazon Basin of Peru.

What to Do if a Chimney Swift Moves In?

If you have chimney swifts in your chimney, the first thing you should do is call a reputable wildlife removal company to schedule an inspection. In fact, this is the first thing you should do if you suspect any wildlife in your chimney. The company will examine the structure and find if the source of the chirping is coming from chimney swifts. 

Unfortunately, if the wildlife company deems that the noises are, in fact, chimney swifts, there’s nothing you can do without breaking the law. Any professional chimney company or wildlife company will refuse to touch the birds as well. Of course, there are federal permits that you can try to get, but those are rarely granted. Most of the time, you will just need to wait until the birds leave on their own. 

The good news is that the chimney swifts won’t even start to make noises until they’re about two weeks old and they’ll leave the nest a couple of weeks after that. So that means you’ll only have to hear the flapping and chirping for a short time before the birds head somewhere else.

How to Prevent Chimney Swifts From Moving In

You should know that if you have chimney swifts now, they tend to return to the same nesting site year after year. I like to think of it as the chimney swift’s lucky fishing spot. They were lucky once, so they’ll just try it again and again until their luck runs out. 

The best way to prevent chimney swifts from moving in is by having a chimney cap installed on your chimney. A well-built and properly maintained chimney cap will prevent birds and other wild animals from getting into your chimney and building nests. It will also help out to prevent chimney leaks when the rainy season comes.

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Schedule an inspection with a CSIA certified chimney expert to get your chimney’s dimensions, so that we can install a custom fit chimney cap. 



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