What is a Chimney Swift?
Chimney Swifts are commonly known as chattering birds. They are almost constantly aloft with their cigar-shaped bodies clearing insects out of the sky. Before migrating throughout North America to nest in the spring and summer, these small gray and brown birds often spend their winters in South America. They can also be identified by their unusual “jerky” flight patterns and distinct calls.
Chimney Swifts are extraordinary insect-eaters. This bird species can consume about 1/3 of its body weight in insects daily. They have wide flat beaks which they use to feed their young, probe for food, kill prey, manipulate objects, and court. Apart from coming down to feed their young and to roost, they often spend most of their time in the air. While in flight, these birds do everything they can to survive - from breaking twigs off trees to building nests and catching insects for food.
Naturally, Chimney Swifts nest in trees but due to the destruction of many forests, chimneys have become their primary nesting grounds. Unfortunately, this effect can adversely affect your chimney and even expose your home to diseases and bacteria. These birds are naturally exposed to a wide range of microorganisms during the course of their long-distance travels through a variety of habitats.
What are their common problems?
Residue buildup is one of the major problem homeowners face with swifts in their chimney. Apart from the problems that are associated with this menace, chimney pests are also a common problem. If you have swifts inside your chimney, you stand to be visited by a number of critters. These smaller nuisances can find their way into your chimney.
No doubt, Chimney Swifts have a penchant for building nests in chimneys. Unfortunately, you will more likely be stuck with a swift when it finds its way into your chimney. Chimney Swift chicks can hang about the nest for about 2-3 weeks. It is important to note that if the baby chick birds are making a feeding call, they are not capable of flight yet. These little brownish black birds are a kind of vocal little buggers which any homeowner can find to be quite annoying.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be legally done about this because they are classified as “Threatened” species. Without a federal permit, you cannot remove a migrating bird of this kind. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Worst of all, they have the tendency to return to the same location the following year with a large flock. There activities in your chimney would not only ruin the smokestack but could create safety hazards for you and your family.
When do Chimney Swifts Migrate?
Typically, this bird species will migrate to is original nesting location year after year in the later parts of March, as the weather gets warmer. The swifts will not return to the south (South America) to migrate until beginning to mid-November when the weather starts getting colder with more frequent frost.
Control Options Strategies
How do you keep them out of your chimney?
A chimney with a damaged chimney cap presents the easiest and most common means by which Chimney Swifts can gain entrance. Swifts are very small in size and a shifted or ill-fitted chimney cap, may serve as a loophole for them to fit through. Before a small issue turns into a major problem it is good you quickly repair any damage that must have been found in the chimney.
It is expedient to have your chimney regularly inspected to look for damage to the chimney cap and other constituting components. A thorough chimney inspection can help keep swifts from invading your home by evaluating the condition of the chimney.
If you have had swifts in the past, and want to bird proof your chimney, it is important to ensure that your chimney is well protected and repaired from all damages because Chimney Swifts are migratory birds that are often known to return to the same nesting grounds yearly. Your chimney can become a usual nesting ground for Chimney Swifts every year if you fail to repair and protect it.
When properly fitted, and installed, a chimney cap will not only exclude birds, but will also provide additional benefit of pest proofing it from other wildlife too.
What can be done to swifts in your chimney?
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to Chimney Swifts in a chimney. Alongside other birds that are under the protection of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is a federal offense to cause harm remove or damage the nests of Chimney Swifts while the hatchlings are still in them. Under this law, you can only get rid of their nests after the hatchlings have left.
Fortunately, Chimney Swifts are one of those few birds with the shortest nesting cycles which takes less than 6 weeks from the time of nesting to the time of departure for hatchlings. As regarding swifts in chimneys, there are some simple rules that can be applied.
Do not perform your annual cleaning until the last of the hatchlings has left the nest. Although there may be noises from the young birds during their quest for food, these should be tolerated as they are only temporary.
If swifts are in occupancy earlier in the season, it is best you ask your chimney sweep to return in the fall. Every professional sweep should be aware of the fact that they can be fined or penalized for intentionally destroying birds or nests with young or eggs in them. Especially that of swifts which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Let Aviaway inspect and provide you with a plan to help control your Chimney Swift problems today.