Bird-Friendly Communities

Make Your Chimney Swift-Friendly

Provide a Roost for Our 2016 Bird of the Year

Every chimney makes a difference to helping the Chimney Swift. Find out how taking simple steps to make your chimney bird-friendly will help replace disappearing nesting and roosting sites for our 2016 Bird of the Year.

Importance of Chimneys for the Swift

Chimney Swifts need our help. The number of swifts has dropped by half since the 1960s, and this once common bird is currently listed as “near-threatened”.  If you have an older chimney, you can easily provide these urban-dwellers with a bird-friendly home.

Historically, Chimney Swifts built their nests in large hollow trees. For the past 200 years or so, as those trees became scarce, swifts have adapted to building their nests in chimneys and buildings instead.

Thousands of swifts may share a chimney for roosting and resting during fall migration, but during breeding season, each pair needs its own chimney.  That means a lot of chimneys are needed to help this bird raise its young so that the species decline can be reversed.

Research by the Wake Audubon Society chapter indicates that chimneys suitable for Chimney Swifts are disappearing – either being capped or removed altogether – at a fast rate in North Carolina. Less than one-third of school chimneys identified 15 years ago are still suitable for swifts today.

Is Your Chimney Swift-Ready?

Suitable chimneys are rough inside: stone, firebrick, or masonry flue tiles with mortared joints. Metal-lined chimneys are slippery and should always be capped to prevent swifts and other wildlife from entering and becoming trapped at the bottom of the chimney.

Chimney Swifts stick small twigs to the chimney with their saliva, gluing the nest to the chimney wall.

An annual cleaning, by a certified chimney sweep, will ensure that your chimney is healthy for swifts and after the swifts are gone, safe for use. Late winter – before the swifts arrive in late March – is the best time for the annual cleaning, which removes creosote buildup. You also might ask the sweep to cap your chimney in November during the months you are likely to use it and uncap it in mid-March before swifts arrive.

A Spring Arrival

Chimney Swifts start to arrive in North Carolina from their South American wintering grounds in late March, and they’ll nest in chimneys from May to August. Starting in April and continuing through October, you have a good chance of hearing their distinctive chittering calls and seeing them fly overhead all day long.

When you see Chimney Swifts entering a chimney, please share your observations through eBird. Knowing where they roost will help us to protect these precious sites and keep track of how they are doing.

There’s so much you can do to help Swifts thrive in your home and community. Click here to learn more about what you can do to help protect our 2016 Bird of the Year. 

How you can help, right now