Chimney Swifts, over the past century, have been extremely adaptable – learning to roost in urban chimneys as large hollow trees and caves, their natural roosting sites, disappeared. But populations are decreasing steeply – 53 percent between 1966 and 2007 in the United States – as chimneys are capped or removed, leaving fewer places for swifts to nest and raise their chicks. Chimney Swifts are now listed as “near threatened.”
Because the swift has become a truly urban bird, they frequently co-exist with humans. But with changes in our human behaviors and landscapes their ability to adapt even more is questionable. This is where you come in. There are so many ways to help this unique bird thrive in your own community.
Here are four things you can do to support Chimney Swifts:
1. Keep Your Chimney Open – The practice of capping older chimneys makes them inaccessible to swifts. One solution is to hire a chimney sweep to cap the chimney in November and open it up again before Chimney Swifts arrive in the spring. Or simply keep your chimney open. Newer chimneys tend to have metal liners that are too slick for the swifts to perch on, so older chimneys with brick linings are really important. Share your commitment to keep your chimney friendly for swifts here.
2. Become a Community Scientist – Report nesting and roosting Chimney Swift sightings here or at eBird.org. The more we know about Chimney Swift roost sites, the better we can protect them. Chimney Swifts are in North Carolina from late March through October. The rest of the year they are either migrating or on wintering grounds.
If you’re already an eBird user, please enter your observations following these recommendations from eBird staff:
- Include Chimney Swift Roost or Chimney Swift Nest in the Location Name.
- Choose “Stationary Count”.
- Include only Chimney Swifts on your checklist and select “No” to indicate you are not reporting all the species you were able to identify.
- Resist the temptation to make the chimney or tower a hotspot.
3. Construct A Chimney Swift Tower – Provide more nesting habitat to your neighborhood swifts. We recommend this book on building swift towers by Chimney Swift experts Paul and Georgean Kyle. There are also great videos available online to help you get started. Swift towers make excellent Eagle Scout projects. Schoolyards, church grounds, parks and other open areas make good sites. Register Chimney Swift towers here.
4. Save Roost Towers – Schools and industrial buildings are replacing heating and cooling systems at a rapid rate in North Carolina, causing the loss of suitable roost towers. Be proactive and write letters and arrange to meet with school administrators, facilities managers, and others who influence decisions on chimneys before plans are made to tear the chimney down. Offer to give a brief presentation to a group of people connected with the building.
Bird-Friendly Communities is a partnership program that focuses conservation efforts where most people live - in cities and towns. To learn more about this program, click here.