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Chimney Swift Removal

chimney swift

06.29.2006 - Each June, I receive many calls about a terrific racket coming from inside a chimney. I've heard all sorts of explanations, everything from "family of squirrels" to "there's a rattlesnake in my chimney!". These explanations are wrong. It's Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica).

The Chimney Swift is one of North America's more remarkable birds. They are fantastic fliers: they catch their food, insects, on the wing, and even snatch up nesting twigs on the wing. They use these twigs to build a nest, which they adhere to the wall of a cavern using special sticky saliva. While in nature they may prefer hollowed out trees (what animal doesn't love a hollowed-out tree? This seems to be the default habitat for any animal. I mean, how many hollowed out trees are there, anyway?), they really seem to thrive in chimneys. Using their superb flying skills, they can fly in and out of the vertical flu, a feat not many birds could match. They cling to the wall of the flu - even the smooth metal surfaces of the steel pipe flus so common in Florida. They have sticky sharp claws.

In spring, they (I don't know if it's just the female or what) build a nest, and affix it to the wall of the chimney flu. So far, no big deal. I'm sure most homeowners don't even notice. But then the young swifts hatch. The homeowners most definitely notice. The animal kingdom is full of loud animals - elephants, howler monkeys, congressmen, but none compare to a nest of hatching Chimney Swifts. They make a ridiculous racket. The thing is, once one bird starts, they all start. In a nest of four, it's a din and a half. Add in the acoustics of a chimney - often a metal one - and the sound is enough to deafen a man. Thus, people call me about the racket, and out I come. If I find a nest of Chimney Swifts, I try to leave it alone. "Why not wait a week or two?" I say, hoping that I don't have to disturb the nest. Some people relax when they hear that it's just harmless and delightful Chimney Swifts. But some people say, "if you don't remove it, I will!". In this case, I remove the young, shoo out the mom if she's there, cap the chimney, and bring the hatchlings to a wonderful bird rehabber here in Orlando - Anne Young. She takes good care of these spectacular birds.

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