When a chimney swift moves into your chimney

A nest, likely left over from 2014, from a chimney swift that visited CSIA's chimney swift tower.
A nest, likely left over from 2014, from a chimney swift that visited CSIA’s chimney swift tower. [Picture from video taken by Michael Segerstrom]
A bird species that CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are fond of, the aptly named Chimney Swift, considers chimneys to be the best shelter around. Swifts are now making their annual return north as spring begins to take hold throughout much of America, and they are attracted to your flue — particularly if you haven’t installed a chimney cap.

Unlike most birds, Chimney Swifts are unable to perch or stand upright and must have chimneys or similar structures in which to roost and raise their families. [Source: Texas Partners in Flight].

Chimney Swifts are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb Chimney Swifts, their nests, eggs or young during the breeding season.

At the Chimney Safety Institute of America, we have a chimney swift tower set off from our 10,000-square-foot Technology Center in Plainfield, Indiana. We have so many chimneys on the main facility, we are attractive-looking spot — but our chimneys have caps, as we advise all homeowners to do, to avoid invasion of unwanted critters.

“Chimney swifts eat an awful lot of insects,” said Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. “As we (homeowners) put rain caps on top of chimneys, they don’t have a natural habitat, so the solution  is to build swift towers so they have a place to nest and procreate.”

As Paul and Georgean Kyle have pointed out on their website, ChimneySwifts.org, swifts are extremely adaptable. This is why, when their native habitat of large hollow trees in the forests of North America were removed, they learned to nest and roost in chimneys and air shafts.

CSIA’s tower has no barrier to entry. We typically have one to two groups that will build nests, lay eggs and fledge. The nests they build jut out from the chimney walls and are held together by the bird’s glue-like saliva. [Source: CT Sweep]

We observed three nests in CSIA’s chimney swift tower in March 2015.

MORE: Video: Look inside CSIA’s chimney swift tower. What did we find?

Michael Segerstrom, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and CSIA instructor from Bridgewater, New Jersey, was in town to teach at the National Chimney Sweep Training School. There was evidence that wasps or hornets, or a stinging insect had built numerous nests in the chase. That’s what Segerstrom discovered.

“We wanted to remove these nests to keep the environment friendly for the chimney swifts,” Segerstrom said.

CSIA's Chimney Swift Tower, located east of our technology center in Plainfield, Indiana.
CSIA’s Chimney Swift Tower, located east of our technology center in Plainfield, Indiana.

Why Chimney Sweeps are sweet on swifts.

Swifts are a species facing a dramatic decline in numbers due to loss of habitat.


Homeowners who find the animals in their chimneys and aren’t interested in hosting the birds cannot remove the birds themselves. Only properly permitted and qualified professionals can relocate Swifts.

We encourage you to consult with your local CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep if you believe Swifts, or any animal for that matter, have taken up residence in your chimney. Once the proper professionals have relocated the animals, your certified sweep can install a chimney cap to help prevent future critter visits.

2 thoughts on “When a chimney swift moves into your chimney

  1. I’m really glad that you posted this information about chimney swifts. When I was a kid, there was a bird that somehow made its way down my chimney and into my house. It was really odd seeing it fly around, trying to find a way out. My mom had a really difficult time catching it, but she caught it after chasing the bird around for a while. Neither of us knew how it got into the chimney in the first place. After reading this article, I now know that chimneys are a desirable nesting spot for these birds. That seems like a really good reason to have your chimney cleaned out to make sure that there aren’t any birds nesting up in there.


  2. I want the chimney swifts to raise young in my chimney. They eat so many bugs. It is against the law to remove chimney swifts while they are nesting. They are protected by law. As far as I find they migrate south from Virginia in October and come back in late March. That means you can use your chimney all winter. I doubt it was a swift that flew out the bottom of your chimney into your house unless the nest fell down. In which case you can lift the babies up into the chimney where they can grip the wall. They will continue to be fed by the adults of the swift community and their chattering sound will grow softer as they get farther up. They will fly off with the adults shortly.


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