Resources for Homeowners

Information for Homeowners

I am hearing strange noises in my chimney – is that normal?

If the Chimney Swifts in your chimney have nested (during June – August in Wisconsin), and they were successful in brooding their eggs, then you will hear some chittering/chattering/squealing noises.  (If you have a working fireplace, closing the damper will minimize the noise and will also prevent a baby swift from accidentally falling into your fireplace if it falls from the nest.) These noises are the sound the chicks make when they are awakened by the return of their parents to feed them.  Be assured – this noise is the sound of happy babies.  The noise can be somewhat loud at times, but know that it is only for the short period of time that the nestlings are unable to fly. Once the sound of the babies becomes noticeable, they are usually only fourteen days or so from fledging. Once they can fly and hunt on their own, you will no longer hear the noises.

How do I know if I have Chimney Swifts in my chimney?

Does it sound like this?  These are the sounds of baby Chimney Swifts.

(Fast forward to 29 seconds in the video above to hear the sounds of begging Chimney Swifts.)

Does it sound like this?  These are the calls of baby raccoons – you do not have chimney swifts if it sounds like this.

What should you do about raccoons in your chimney? http://wisconsinhumanesociety.blob.core.windows.net/production//Wildlife/PDFs/AnimalinChimney-FINAL2-22-13.pdf for the humane and cost-effective solution!

Is it okay to have Chimney Swifts in my chimney?  What if I don’t want to have birds in my chimney?

It is GREAT that you have Chimney Swifts in your chimney!  In fact, you are incredibly lucky.  Without a doubt, many are jealous of your situation.  Because of changes made to our landscape and loss of historical habitat, swifts rely almost entirely on man-made structures for nest and roost sites.  Our chimneys are their homes.  Rest assured that they do not wish to enter your home, and they are only utilizing the chimney.  Their nests are attached with saliva, and although this may sound somewhat gross – it’s actually great – their nest-making does not cause any structural damage.  

Do NOT be tempted to light a fire or “smoke” them out.  This is inhumane and deadly – nestlings not yet able to fly will be killed.  Additionally, Chimney Swifts are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and it is highly illegal for you to disturb or harm them, their nests, or eggs.  The best thing you can do is to leave them alone.

How will I use my chimney in winter if I have swifts in there?

No need to worry – Chimney Swifts are migratory.  This means that after they have spent the summer in your chimney, they will migrate south (most are gone from the northern half of Wisconsin by late September; from the southern half of Wisconsin by the middle of October).  Once you are sure they are out of your chimney, you are free to use your chimney as you please.  If you are concerned with other animals entering your chimney, see http://www.wihumane.org/wildlife/documents/AnimalinChimney-FINAL2-22-13.pdf.   

Will my house be over-run by Chimney Swifts if they breed in my chimney?  I’ve seen videos of hundreds of Chimney Swifts all going into one chimney!

No.  The chimneys that you may have heard about or been lucky enough to see with hundreds of birds entering them are usually industrial-sized chimneys (although a large, suitable home chimney could host 100 birds or more), and these are not breeding birds – they are utilizing large chimneys as temporary roosting sites during migration. Only one pair of Chimney Swifts breed in a chimney at a time.  After this pair raises its brood, it is the end of summer and they will soon migrate south.  With luck, you may get the same pair of Chimney Swifts returning each year to nest.  

What should I be aware of before I hire a chimney sweep?

Inquire about a company’s policy regarding Chimney Swifts. Many companies actively promote the conservation of Chimney Swifts. Any company advertising a “bird removal” service should be avoided, as this is a violation of state and federal laws protecting Chimney Swifts and other migratory birds.

The best time to have your chimney cleaned is in late March, after the winter heating season and before swifts have returned to their summer range in North America.

Where can I get more information about Chimney Swifts?

The Chimney Swift Conservation Association, founded by Paul and Georgean Kyle of Austin, TX, promotes research and education about the conservation of Chimney Swifts. Their website www.chimneyswifts.org and their publications are wonderful sources of information.

Learn more about sharing your home with Chimney Swifts at http://georgiawildlife.com/node/940

Keep Chimney Swifts common in Wisconsin