Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Chimney Swifts: Why They are Important

chimney swiftphoto by Dominic Sherony
Wikimedia Commons
• Chimney Swifts have declined significantly in recent decades and need our assistance more than ever. In 2009, our northern neighbor, Canada, listed them as Threatened.

• 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.

• Chimney Swifts eat nearly one third of their own weight in flying insects, including pests, every day.

• Chimney Swifts are protected by Federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916.

• Like watching a beautiful sunset, the aesthetic value of observing Chimney Swifts’ aerial acrobatics and interactions is a simple pleasure of nature.


a. If you have a masonry or clay flue-tile chimney, keep the top open and the damper closed from April through October to provide a nest site for these insect-eaters. Metal chimneys should be permanently capped to prevent birds and other wildlife from being trapped.

b. If you have your chimney cleaned, do it from November to March before the Chimney Swifts return from their winter home in South America.

c. Investigate an alternative venting system if you are converting a furnace or hot water heater to gas, leaving the chimney unlined and uncapped for the swifts.

d. Work with local conservation groups to construct Chimney Swift Towers and educate your friends and neighbors about Chimney Swifts.

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