The Chimney Swifts have
returned to Lakeside Nature Center.
Chimney Swift tower at Lakeside Nature Center is
for the seventh year in a row. A pair of birds has built a nest
and is preparing to raise babies. The Swift-cam allows us to
observe these fascinating birds.
Several years ago,
Lakeside Nature Center erected a
20-foot high Chimney Swift tower. Almost as soon as the last
nail was hammered in, a pair of Chimney Swifts swooped in, took
possession, built a nest and raised babies. In the fall, our
visitors had a chance to observe swifts congregating during September, before migrating across the
equator to the rainforests of Peru
Chimney Swifts are small, dark brown birds that
live their lives
entirely on the wing. With their short, stubby bodies and long
pointed wings they are often called ‘flying cigars.’ Swifts do
everything in flight, including all their feeding, courting,
drinking, bathing and collecting twigs
for nests. In fact, they stop flying only to roost for the night and to
nest. They are unable to perch or stand upright, like
songbirds. Their feet are tipped with four sharp claws, which
act as grappling hooks to hold them firmly to their roost.
Their tail feathers are very stiff and extend to provide additional support for
their ‘vertical lifestyle.’ When they roost and nest, they do
so in chimneys, large hollow trees, or manmade swift towers,
like the Center’s new Chimney Swift tower.
often nest in our chimneys, where they cause no damage, contrary
to common belief. The nest and birds
are NOT a fire or a health hazard. Instead, the swifts capture prodigious
amounts of insects, including mosquitoes, to feed their young:
a benefit to their human neighbors.
make a "whooshing" sound with their wings as they come and go
from the chimney to build their nest, and "chipper" as they
socialize with one another in the roost during nest-building and
at night. The young “yipper” loudly with a high-pitched sound as
they beg for food when they hear the whoosh of the parents
return. The young also make a mechanical, hissing alarm call
when disturbed or frightened. Once the sound of the young
becomes noticeable, they are usually only 10 days or so from
fledging. About 4 weeks after hatching, Chimney Swift
fledglings leave the safety of the chimney for their first
Both male and
female birds build the nest and take turns incubating the
eggs. The hatchlings are completely blind and naked at birth.
Sharp claws enable them to cling to textured surfaces. By
fifteen to seventeen days of age, their eyes open and most of
their feathers are unfurled, except for the feathers around the
face and head, giving the nestlings a "frosty-faced"
appearance. Chimney Swifts are fed by both parents until they
Chimney Swift numbers are declining. Scientists
believe the closing of household chimneys in North America,
where the swifts nest and raise their young, causes this
decline. Towers, such as ours, promise to reverse this decline
by adding another “chimney”.
You can help swifts by making it possible for
them to nest in your chimney.
If you have a
masonry or clay flue-tile chimney, keep the top open and the
damper closed from March through October.
Metal chimneys should be permanently capped
to prevent birds from being trapped.
Have your chimney cleaned in early March
before the Chimney Swifts return from their winter home in
If a baby Swift
should fall through the damper, do
NOT put it outside. It will slowly
starve to death. The parents can only care for the young in
the chimney. If the baby's eyes
are open, and it's fully feathered, uninjured and can climb,
put it back above the damper and it will climb back up to
the nest. Close the damper.
If you have more questions about Chimney Swifts,
hesitate to give the Nature Center a call.
You can pick up a brochure with plans for a Chimney Swift tower
and build your own.
Check out the swift cam inside the Nature Center
during operating hours.
Be sure to stop
by to see the swifts as they circle the tower in the evenings.