Is that a Federally Protected Bird Chirping in your Chimney?
If you ever see bat-like creatures rapidly circling your home, it’s possible you are seeing chimney swifts. These tiny birds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and their favorite place to make a nest is in your chimney. Well, an old factory smoke stack may be ever more preferred. But if you don’t have a chimney cap installed, there is a good chance chimney swifts will nest in your chimney sometime from late March thru November. It depends on how you feel about temporarily housing noisy but otherwise harmless birds as to whether it’s bad news or not, but it would be against federal law to move an active chimney swift nest.
In the Eastern U.S., chimney swifts are the most common migrating birds; and people often mistake them for bats. The birds are about 5 inches long, weigh about one ounce, and have unique half-moon-shaped wings with a 12-inch span. They spend practically all of their time in the air, landing only to sleep at night and to raise their young. One reason to be glad the birds are around is that every day they eat a third of their weight in insects such as mosquitoes, beetles, and termites.
What distinguishes chimney swifts from other birds the most is that they are unable to perch horizontally. If they do land on a level surface, it’s difficult for them to launch into flight. The reason for this is that their feet and legs are specially designed to hold onto a vertical surface. Their natural rural habitats are hollowed out trees. But with the destruction of forests, the birds adapted by nesting inside masonry chimneys.
Even though this gregarious bird species sleeps communally, with groups of sometimes thousands of birds, homeowners often don’t realize that chimney swifts have built nests in their chimney until the babies hatch. Fledglings leave the nest after about a month; but once the really loud chirping begins, it’s usually only about two weeks before migration to the south begins.
Research has shown that the chimney swift population has been declining. Adaptation of the birds has been difficult as more people use chimney caps. In addition, when chimneys have metal liners, the birds can’t hold onto the sides; and they can get trapped inside this type of chimney.
Once chimney swifts nest in your chimney, they’ll be back every year, unless you install a chimney cap.
Many bird lovers who are aware of the plight of chimney swifts construct chimney-like towers for them to nest in. These structures are fairly easy to construct, and step-by-step instructions are readily accessible on the Internet.
If you ever suspect that chimney swifts are in your chimney, call our chimney professionals. We can help you determine whether you have an active nest in your chimney. If you do, by federal law, you must leave it there until the birds leave for the south. After they have gone, we can remove the nest and any debris the birds have left behind.
If you would like to provide a home for chimney swifts, here are some tips:
- Have your chimney cleaned after winter is over so that it’s a clean and safe habitat.
- If you have a chimney cap, have it removed for the season; and replace it after the birds migrate south.
- Keep the damper above the firebox closed. If you have a chimney top damper, leave it open.
- If one of the baby birds ends up in your hearth, place it gently on the chimney wall; the little bird will be able to climb back to the nest.
Contact our chimney professionals if you want a chimney cap installed or removed, depending on whether or not you would like to house chimney swifts. Or call us today to schedule an annual cleaning and inspection.
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