Your chimney is designed with a chimney cap. The cap keeps to rain, debris, and animals out of the chimney flue, while still allowing adequate ventilation from the smoke and gases to escape. The chimney cap usually features a metal mesh cover that prevents small animals from entering and nesting in the flue. Even a small tear in this piece can allow animals into the flue. Animals can damage the flue liner as well as blockages, flammable debris, and carcasses once an animal has suffocated inside the flue.
Identifying Chimney Swifts
A common chimney intruder is a small bird called the Chimney Swift. They are aptly named for their habits of breaking and entering chimneys across North America. Historically, swifts nested in hollow trees in the forest, but when settlers began cutting trees they adapted. Homeowners are often unaware of the bird’s presence. Often times they resort to “smoking them out” or lighting fires in the chimney resulting in a substantial population decline. You can identify chimney swifts by their “whoosh” as they fly in and out of the chimney, as well as soft chippering with one another during the night. Once you hear the high-pitched feeding call of the young, you can begin to count the days until they can fly. The young can usually fly within ten days, and the whole family will disappear as quickly as they came.
Why Bother with Chimney Swifts
Chimney swifts are insectivores, consuming 1/3 of their body weight in flying insects and pests, including mosquitoes, biting flies, and termites each day. They are declining in numbers each year, depending solely on man-made habitats to live. Because of their decline, they are protected under State Wildlife Codes and Federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916. This means, if you suspect there are chimney swifts nesting in your chimney, you’d better leave them alone, waiting for their exit before lighting a fire or cleaning your chimney.
How to Help the Chimney Swift
You can build a man-made tower for chimney swifts, much like a martin house provides many birds a home. If you suspect a bird is making your chimney home, you should contact a professional for an assessment. Then you can schedule a sweep for after the swifts have left. Make sure there isn’t any debris left behind. It’s a good idea to also have your chimney cap checked if any bird or other animal was able to enter.
At West Texas Chimney and Venting Solutions, we frequently get calls for pest and animal removal. Not even our tools and expertise can remove a chimney swift, federally protected. It is best to prevent their presence, and one of our technicians can assist you when you schedule an appointment at your convenience. Spring is the time to begin thinking about chimney swifts.