Chimney Swift Conservation

Chimney Swift
Rebecca Field

Chimney Swift enters chimney

Chimney Swifts have declined by over 50% in just the last 40 years. Chimney Swifts can be helped by making chimneys accessible for the birds or by building Chimney Swift Towers -- specially designed nesting/roosting towers. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

  • Plant native trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses that attract more insects than non-native plants. Chimney Swifts feed exclusively on flying insects which are crucial during the breeding season.
  • Investigate an alternative venting system if you are converting a furnace or hot water heater to gas, leaving the chimney unlined and uncapped for the swifts.
  • Work with an experienced chimney sweep company that can speak to the issue of Chimney Swift conservation and chimney maintenance.
  • Encourage your neighborhood parks, schools, and businesses to build chimney swift towers.
  • Work with local conservation groups to raise awareness of the need for uncapped chimneys for Chimney Swift conservation.

CHIMNEY SWIFT FACTS

  • Chimney swifts have declined by over 50% in just the last 40 years
  • Small, agile, fast-flying bird that is readily identified by its "flying cigar" profile
  • Breeds across much of eastern North America
  • Historically nested and roosted in hollow trees
  • Readily adapted to the insides of masonry chimneys
  • Winters in the Amazon Basin

Learn more about Chimney Swifts.

IN THE NEWS

October, 2011. KARE-11 Simply Science video with Sven Sundgaard on Audubon Minnesota's Chimney Swift Conservation Project about a Boy Scout building a tower for his Eagle Project.

July 2011. Chimney swift conservation is highlighted in the July-August Audubon magazine, including a sidebar "Tower Power" with Audubon Minnesota's Chimney Swift conservation project noted.

June 30, 2011. "This knowledge has stopped conversation about putting a cap on the chimney," said Roger Storms following participation in a Community Chimney Swift Sit. "Education is a wonderful thing." http://www.waconiapatriot.com/articles/2011/06/30/norwood_young_america_...

April 2011. Volunteers needed to help restore chimney swift habitat at the Minneapolis American Indian Center - See page 3 of Ojibwe Innaajimowin at http://www.millelacsband.com/Administrative/NewspaperPDF/newsApril2011.p...

Dec. 9, 2010. Star-Tribune. Chimney swifts, which have declined 50 percent in the last 40 years, will be given new nesting sites.

Sept. 16, 2010. KARE-11 Simply Science video with Sven Sundgaard on Audubon Minnesota's Chimney Swift Conservation Project. "It is called the flying cigar because of their short, stubby bodies, long wing span," explains Ron.

Aug. 19, 2010. Watch Jon Smithers' video of Chimney Swifts at St. Anne's School in Le Sueur, Minnesota.

July 31, 2010. Star Tribune. As chimney swifts continue to lose habitat, Newport Elementary in Newport and Hillside Elementary in Cottage Grove are helping to save the species.

June 11, 2010. The Daily Reporter. Contractor's work is for the birds. Kraus-Anderson

May 2, 2010. Finding homes for Chimney Swifts. Stephanie Hemphill reports on Audubon Minnesota's efforts to raise awareness about Chimney Swifts and their special habitat needs.

Nov. 16, 2009. KARE-11 story on unique young chimney swifts that have to learn the skills of the swift thanks to the help of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do I tell if I have chimney swifts and not bats in my chimney?
Swifts like large openings at the top and closed at the bottom unlike bats that like tight openings at the bottom and closed at top. If you see birds entering the chimney at dusk they are most likely chimney swifts. Bats on the other hand are leaving their small roosts at that time.

Should I be concerned about swifts interfering with my use of my fireplace? Swifts are generally gone before the colder temperatures arrive as they spend winter in the Amazon.

I have heard that chimney swifts pose a fire hazard, is that true?
Only one pair of swifts nest in a chimney so matter how many non-breeding swifts might be using it. The nest is so small that it poses a very minimal fire hazard, and certainly is small enough to not block even the smallest of flues. Routine cleaning (when the swifts are gone south for the winter is the best time) will eliminate any potential risk.

The chimney swifts are really noisy, what is going on?
Swifts will make swooshing noises as they enter and leave the chimney and will often chirp. If you are lucky enough to have a nest with young you won't have any problem knowing as they will make some loud, high pitched yips when the parents return with food. This vocalization by the young doesn't last but two to two and a half weeks until the young fledge. You can put a sheet of Styrofoam or something that softens the noise in the flue to reduce the noise during the nesting period.

Some chimney sweeps have told me that swifts cause Histoplasmosis, should I be concerned?

Histoplasma, an organism that can grow in the soil is associated primarily with large scale poultry operations or large amounts of bird or bat droppings. Having you chimney cleaned periodically (while the swifts are not nesting) will prevent any appreciable accumulations of droppings. The chimney sweep will take necessary precautions if there are any accumulated materials at the bottom.

How much difference does it make if I cap my chimney?
Capping of chimneys is undoubtedly a major factor in the decline of the chimney swift (a 50% decline in just the last 40 years. One less chimney means one less family of young that can reproduce in the years ahead. Rather than capping your chimney or installing metal vents when installing a new gas furnace of hot water heater consider alternative venting methods other than running it up an existing brick chimney.

Copyright  2013 National Audubon Society, Inc

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