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Information About Chimney Swifts

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Chimney sweeps are not the only species of birds that spend time around residential chimneys but they are one of the ones you need to know about because they are Federally protected. This simply means that if you try and harm them or move them once in your chimney you open yourself up to a large fine.

The chimney swift is a North American bird that takes up residence in chimneys, stone wells, and abandoned buildings. These birds are most common to regions east of the Rocky Mountains and are usually seen flying in groups. However, they roost in buildings all along their natural route.

Chimney Swifts

After wintering in Peru, these swifts head back to the continental U.S. in March, where they reside until early November. Their appearance is characterized by long wings with a span of approximately 12.5 inches, a short body, and a squared tail. When flapping their wings, these birds are bat-like and they typically make a ticking or chipping call. Males and females have the same appearance, with a sooty gray or black coat and a slightly lighter throat.

This bird is unable to stand upright or perch, instead using tail bristles and claws to cling to vertical surfaces. Swifts begin nesting in May and this behavior may continue through August. Most birds have a single brood of three to five eggs. The nest is made from twigs adhered with saliva and attached inside the chimney wall. After approximately 18 days, the young hatch and about a month later, the family leaves the chimney.

Though these birds seem attractive and are not harmful, their residence in the chimney is typically unwanted. Prior to their migration in fall, they congregate in flocks of hundreds to thousands at large roost sites. When the first major fall cold front blows through, the birds fly south to the Amazon Basin in Peru.

When conducting annual chimney inspections, chimney sweeps look for signs of these birds. They remove nests that have been left behind in the chimney and install chimney caps to prevent the birds from taking up residence the following season. Humans and chimney swifts can live in harmony but preferably not in the same home.