Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flying Cigars

I debated between that title and "my chimney is chattering".
Either way, I'm thrilled.
Those descriptions mean I have chimney swifts back for the 10th year.
When we began building the house in the summer 2000, we noticed sounds coming from the chimney, that was obviously being made by birds.
It was very close to the time when our builder wanted to light a fire in the fireplace to make sure it drafted properly.
I wasn't having any of it. I don't know how I got away with it, but I put my foot down. We were not going to kill birds just to see if smoke goes up the chimney. Our fireplace is huge and built the old fashioned way. Very different from our previous house that had a metal pipe that went up the center of a faux chimney on the outside of the house.
If smoke didn't rise properly in this monster, I didn't know what we'd do about it anyway.
I digress. Sort of.
It's the fact that the chimney is built with stone and mortar that lead me to quickly discover what sort of bird it might be.
They build tiny, stick nests in the lower 1/3 of an upright structure that has texture on the interior walls.
They are migratory birds that spend their winters of the Amazon basin in Peru. They arrive in mid/late March in the southern US and head back south in November. Those months are very reason so many humans are able to abide their noisy chatter. It leaves them free to use their fireplaces in the coldest months of the year.
Their flying/landing behavior makes them more like bats than birds. They are unable to stand upright like other birds. They cling to the sides of the chimney to sleep at night.
During the daytime, they are eating machines! A pair of adult swifts, feeding a brood of chicks (3-5) can consume more than 12,ooo flying insects a day.
Goodbye mosquitoes and flies!

Our chimney is especially noisy this year. We have a very successful nest of babies.
The last two summers, the drought was so severe that I believe the parents couldn't find enough food for the chicks.

My only wish is that these pictures were mine. I have no way of getting into my chimney without terrifying both the chicks and their parents. Having a chick fall because of fright would be a death sentence. It's not risk I'm willing to take.
I'm just thrilled that we have babies this year. Noisy chatter and all.


  1. A true bird lover. My hubby has not much love for feathered creatures but tolerates mine.

    Swallows and swifts are just short of miraculous in my thinking. The idea of carrying mud in their mouth to make a nest is boggeling. The way they zip through the air and how they can capture a meal on the fly is another miracle. Good for you putting your foot down to protect your friends. I hope the chimney works just fine when you need it.

  2. Wow, CeeCee! I learned a lot from your post - thanks! Amazing birds - again, wow.

  3. I've never actually seen a chimney swift but looking at those pictures I agree, they seem very bat-like. How exciting that you have so many! Maybe you'll get a peek at them when the babies get a little older.

  4. I wish I had chimney swifts...we have bats but they just aren't able to keep up with all of the bugs!