Why You Shouldn't Act Swiftly When You Hear Chirps In Your Chimney

Posted on: 7 January 2015

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If you hear chirps coming from your chimney, it's likely you have chimney swifts nesting in there. Chimney swifts are birds that look like cigars when they fly. They can cause a lot of problems, and you could be charged a hefty fine if you remove them. Before you do anything, it's important to understand what types of problems you are dealing with so you know how to take care of them. Here's what you need to know.

Chimneys are ideal for swifts, but not for you

Chimneys are ideal places for swifts to nest. Chimney swift feet are angled to allow them to cling to vertical objects such as the insides of hollowed out trees and chimneys. Their saliva is sticky and used to glue twigs to chimney walls. Even though chimneys may be ideal for swifts, the birds can create a number of problems for you.

  • Swift nests can block drafts and keep smoke from rising up and out of chimney.
  • Nests and birds can fall and drop into your fireplace or get stuck in the damper.
  • Nests could catch fire when you use your fireplace. 
  • The birds can stink up your home if they die.
  • You and your family members could suffer from histoplasmosis, which is a fungal infection caused by bird and bat droppings in humid areas.
  • Swift babies chirp constantly when they are hungry, which can be heard inside your home.

With all of these potential problems, the first thing you'll want to do is to get rid of them. But, don't act so swiftly.

Removing swifts could cost you a hefty fine

Chimney swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You cannot legally remove the birds or their nests while they are actively using your chimney. If you do, you could face a hefty fine of up to $15,000 per egg or bird. Since female swifts can lay 4-5 eggs, that fine could be as high as $105,000 if you remove or harm the male, the female and 5 eggs or babies.

Avoid using your fireplace until the birds migrate away

Of course, given the amount of the fine, you will be hard pressed to find a chimney sweep who will be willing to remove an active nest. Fortunately, nesting and breeding occurs during the warmer months when fireplaces are typically not in use. However, birds often try to return to their same nest locations each year, so it's important to remove the nests while the birds are spending their winters in the southern hemisphere.

While the nest is active, you'll want to close the damper and close off your fireplace opening by installing a barrier so the bird droppings do not make you sick. You can do this by blocking off the fireplace opening with a thick plastic sheet or a sheet of plywood. Hire a chimney sweep to remove the nest and all remnants of the birds after they have migrated away for the winter.

Prevent future nesting with a cap & a tower

Since swifts try to return to their previous nests, you'll need to install a chimney cap to prevent them from re-entering your chimney. Your chimney sweep can install one for you after he or she removes the nests. If you like the idea of being a helpful landlord to your swift family, you can build a chimney swift tower somewhere on your property to give them a place to nest.

Chimney swifts are protected wildlife and cannot be removed while they are actively nesting and living in your chimney. However, since swifts can cause problems while they are active and after they leave, contact a chimney sweep for more info and help.