A Swift’s Secrets Revealed: What You Need to Know about Chimney Swifts
In this day and age, we have become masters of multitasking on the fly: conference calls in the school drop-off line, lunch on the way to your next appointment, rehearsing a sales pitch on the train. But could you hunt, drink, fetch building materials, and even bathe while airborne? What about raising babies on a completely vertical surface, or building a home using nothing but your feet, your beak, and some superglue-spit?
While that is out of the realm of what is possible for us as humans, all of these things are completely natural to one unique bird – the chimney swift, or Chaetura Pelagica. Native to South America and a summertime visitor to the Eastern half of the United States, these small birds have astounding abilities. They also may be an explanation for the chirping, rustling, and hissing/rattling sound you hear from your fireplace in the summer!
Your unwanted guests may not always turn out to be chimney swifts, but there are extra considerations for removal and prevention if they are. Continue reading to learn more about these small but mighty creatures and why we have to wait for them to clear out before we can remove the nests and cap your chimney.
Chimney swifts are native to South America and spend their winters warm and happy in Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru. When the weather warms up, they begin their long yearly trek to their favored breeding grounds in the Eastern United States. There they will raise this year’s brood of young before making the long journey back home. Did you know that the average chimney swift flies over 1,300,000 miles in a year? That’s like traveling the Pan-American Highway – a network of roads stretching from northern Alaska to the southernmost tip of Argentina – 43 times back to back. Pretty impressive for a bird that tops out around 5 inches in length!
There are other factors that make the chimney swift unique among birds. Foremost is their amazing vertical flight ability, shared only by a few other species. Most birds need a horizontal start to become airborne, but not Chaetura Pelagica. They can take off straight up into the air, which makes them very suited to nesting in chimneys. Swifts can also perch on completely vertical surfaces with the aid of their claws and tails, and the young can sometimes climb back up the wall of the chimney to get back into their nest if they fall out. They spend almost all of their time in flight once mature, more than most other bird species.
Because chimney swifts migrate across international borders, they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, or MBTA. The MBTA makes it illegal to move, capture, or interfere with the breeding of certain species. This means that if your chimney is home to a family of swifts, we are not permitted to remove them until the young have grown and left the nest on their own. However, since most fireplaces are not in heavy use over the summer, this may be an opportunity to allow some organic pest control to take place on your property! One nesting pair of swifts can consume over 12,000 insects in a single day, and they eat only flying insects – including mosquitoes, gnats, wasps, and flies, which often plague homeowners inside and outdoors.
The good news is that the young swifts won’t be in your chimney for long. According to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, most young will be ready to leave the nest about 30-40 days after hatching. Closing your damper can help reduce the noise you hear inside your home while they are growing and getting stronger. To ensure that we leave enough of a window to permit the eggs to hatch and the young to develop fully, we will inspect your chimney again in early fall and then help you decide how to move forward. Swifts are like salmon and will return to the same breeding ground year after year, so we recommend that you cap your chimney if you don’t want more noisy houseguests next season.
For more information about dealing with chimney swifts inside your chimney, as well as planning for future prevention, contact us today at 757-596-2298. At Black Goose Chimney we have a wide range of products to fit every home and budget and want to make sure that your chimney and your home are protected and prepared for the next breeding season. And if you are interested in reading more about the chimney swift, check out the links below to learn about their life cycle, habitats, and what you can do to help protect this amazing bird!