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What's Cheeping In Your Chimney

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

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When you begin hearing chimney swifts chirping loudly, they are only about two weeks from leaving their nest. Consider their racket a small price for the insect control they provide.

Close your fireplace damper or seal the hole where the stovepipe enters the chimney. This will keep the birds from getting into your fireplace or stove, where they may die.

If you find a swift in your fireplace, catch the bird and gently place it on the chimney wall above the damper. Close the damper to prevent the young birds from re-entering the fireplace.

To dampen the sound of the young swifts, pack foam insulation below the damper or the hole for the stove pipe. Young swifts are usually only heard during the last two weeks before they fly. It won't last long, and the benefits the birds provide may even help you enjoy the chatter in your chimney.

If you find an inhabited nest during a scheduled chimney cleaning, reschedule the cleaning for sometime between mid-September and mid-March.

If chimney swifts are using your chimney and you do not want them there, wait for them to complete their nesting season and install a chimney cap during the winter-before April- to prevent future nests. It is a federal offense to destroy the nest, eggs or young of chimney swifts.

If you would like to have chimney swifts in your chimney, attracting them may be as simple as removing the cap from your chimney.

If your chimney has a metal liner, leave it capped. Swifts cannot attach nests to the metal, and a chimney with such equipment may trap birds. If you wish to use the cap during the winter when you have a fire, simply remove the cap in March before the swifts return. This also is a good time to clean your chimney to remove the accumulated creosote. Cleaning the chimney also will provide a better surface on which swifts can attach their nest.

Replace the chimney cap in October, after the swifts have departed. Properly cleaning your chimney before swifts arrive or after they migrate will ensure its usefulness to both you and your swift friends. Because swifts migrate before cold weather arrives, they will be gone before you need your chimney for more conventional uses.

If your house lacks a fireplace or chimney, you still can attract swifts, but it will take a little more work. Chimney swifts are readily attracted to wooden towers with the proper dimensions.

Basically, you will be constructing a shaft similar to a chimney, with roughened wood on the inside to allow swifts to cling to its surface. The inside opening must be at least 11 inches across. The shaft should be at least eight feet high and closed at the bottom. Towers less than 12 feet high should have a sunshade on the south edge to protect the interior from direct sunlight.

For stabilization, you can attach the swift tower to the side of your house or some other building. The tower top should rise at least four feet above the roof. More elaborate designs can be self-supported on a concrete foundation.

For more information on building the chimney swift towers invented by the Driftwood Wildlife Association, visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/birding/chimneyswift/chimneyswift-index.htm>.

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