Unless it's Santa coming to visit, you're probably not going to welcome an intruder entering your home through the chimney.
It's not unusual for birds to get stuck in chimneys. That's where chimney swifts get their name! According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, chimney swifts primarily populate urban and suburban areas of the northeastern United States and Canada, migrating south to the Amazon Basin during the winter. These birds spend nearly all their time airborne, but when they land, they nestle into buildings' niches - particularly chimneys - to raise their young. This usually occurs in late spring to mid-summer.
Chimneys also make a cozy home for non-bird critters like raccoons and squirrels. And not every entrance is intentional. According to Cornell's All About Birds blog, "larger cavity-nesting birds like wood ducks and barn owls can fall down into a chimney" but can be too large to fly out.
To prevent birds from entering your chimney in the first place, make sure your chimney cap is fitted correctly and free of damage. Minor cracks can still let tiny birds through, and chimney swifts are known to gather in massive numbers, sometimes in the hundreds.
You should be prepared if you've dealt with swifts in the same chimney, as migratory birds nest in the same grounds annually. Even if you've removed them before, they'll likely try to make a return and will succeed if you haven't secured your property.
If you suspect you don't have chimney swifts but a bird trapped involuntarily, the Cornell Lab suggests a DIY way to free it. Turn off all the lights in your house, leave a door open to the outside, and open the flue. Hopefully, the stuck bird will follow the light and fly outside. If this doesn't work, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance.
Unfortunately, if these are chimney swifts nesting in your chimney, there is little you can do until they leave the nest. The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects chimney swifts, and you cannot legally interfere with the birds or their nests without breaking federal law. But thankfully, the chimney swift's nesting cycle is one of the shortest, and its young will depart after about six weeks of nesting. Hang tight and tolerate your chirping chimney until then!
To keep these and other animals out of your chimney before nesting can start, you should schedule an annual inspection and sweep with a Chimney Safety Institute of America-certified chimney sweep. Make this call during the fall, as chimney swifts have already begun migrating south. Dirty chimneys cause most chimney fires, and feathers, nesting materials, and droppings all contribute to this danger. Chimney flues also make a cozy home for non-bird critters like raccoons and squirrels; their fur can add to the mess. Chimney fires are nearly all preventable - one easy phone call and inspection may prevent a massive tragedy.
If bird problems persist, contact AviAway for a free quote. We will assess the damage and the threats birds present to your property and formulate a plan to deter and exclude them safely and effectively.
And it may seem obvious, but it still must be said: do NOT use your fireplace if you suspect a bird is inside.