How to Get Rid of Chimney Swifts

Chimney swift birds, also known simply as chimney swifts, are unique birds, known for their acrobatic flying skills and distinctive cigar-shaped bodies. These birds spend almost their entire lives airborne, capturing insects and only landing to roost or nest in vertical structures like chimneys. However, their presence in chimneys can be problematic for homeowners. This comprehensive guide will explore effective strategies for managing and removing chimney swift birds, respecting their protected status under laws like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and ensuring the safety and integrity of your home.

Understanding Chimney Swifts

Characteristics of Chimney Swifts

Chimney swifts are small birds that spend the majority of their lives in flight. They eat insects and are known for their high-pitched chirps. Specifically, chimney swifts eat insects like flies, bees, wasps, moths, and more while they fly. This behavior explains why a chimney swift infestation can indicate other pest infestations in or near a home. These birds can cling to vertical surfaces but cannot stand upright due to their short legs, which makes hollow trees or chimneys ideal for roosting and nesting.

Why Chimney Swifts Choose Chimneys

Originally nesting in hollow trees, chimney swifts have adapted to urban environments where chimneys serve as the next best alternative. The inner walls of chimneys provide a rough surface similar to tree bark, ideal for the birds to anchor their nests. However, a chimney swift nest can block the flue, posing a carbon monoxide hazard in the home. It's important to note that chimney swifts and their nests are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and they only nest during the relatively short period of spring and summer.

Legal Considerations

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Chimney swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to remove or destroy chimney swift nests during their nesting period without a permit. Specifically, it is prohibited to remove chimney swift nests until the young have fledged and left, as these birds are covered under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This federal law covers not only chimney swifts but all migratory birds, emphasizing the importance of checking with local wildlife authorities before taking any action to ensure compliance with legal restrictions on when and how to remove chimney swift nests.

State and Local Wildlife Laws

Beyond federal protections, local and state regulations may provide additional guidelines or restrictions. It's crucial to consult with local wildlife authorities to ensure any action taken is legally compliant.

Preventive Measures

Chimney Caps and Guards

To prevent chimney swifts from nesting, installing a chimney cap or guard is an effective measure. These caps also protect your chimney from other pests and reduce debris accumulation, which can become a fire hazard due to creosote buildup.

Regular Chimney Maintenance

Scheduling chimney sweeps in late winter or early spring can discourage swifts from nesting. A clean and well-maintained chimney is less attractive as a nesting site and minimizes risks like chimney fires.

Alternative Nesting Sites

Providing alternative nesting sites such as swift towers can divert chimney swifts from your chimney. These structures mimic the environment of a hollow tree or chimney, offering a suitable habitat for swifts to nest and roost.

Safe Removal Techniques

When Is It Safe to Remove Swifts?

The optimal time to remove nests is after the young birds fledge and the swifts leave the chimney, typically in late summer. This timing avoids violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and ensures the birds are not harmed.

How to Clean After Swifts Leave

Post-nesting chimney cleaning is essential to remove nests, droppings, and feathers. This not only prevents re-infestation but also reduces the risk of chimney fires and structural damage from accumulated materials.

Handling an Active Swift Infestation

Do's and Don'ts


  • Wait until the swifts have naturally vacated to clean or cap your chimney.
  • Consult with wildlife experts or licensed professionals to handle the situation legally and safely.


  • Attempt to remove active nests during the nesting period.
  • Use bird spikes or other deterrents that may harm the birds.

Professional Wildlife Removal

In cases where swifts have established residency, it's best to hire professionals who specialize in legally compliant and humane wildlife removal. They can ensure that both the swifts' safety and your legal obligations are met.

The Role of Chimney Swifts in the Ecosystem

Benefits of Hosting Swifts

While they may be inconvenient as house guests, chimney swifts play a vital role in controlling insect populations, consuming thousands of bugs each day. Understanding and appreciating their ecological benefits can encourage coexistence during their nesting period.

Environmental Impact of Swift Removal

Removing chimney swifts without providing alternative nesting sites can negatively impact local ecosystems. It's important to balance human interests with environmental conservation.

FAQs About Chimney Swifts

How to Identify a Swift Infestation?

Signs include hearing chirping noises from the chimney, observing swifts entering and leaving at dusk, and finding droppings around the fireplace.

Can I Prevent Swifts Year-Round?

It's possible to deter swifts year-round by installing a chimney cap immediately after they migrate south to Central or South America in late fall.

What To Do If Swifts Return?

If swifts return, it's crucial to understand that they are known for their loyalty to the same nesting site every year, often reusing the same nest. This behavior underscores the importance of reassessing the chimney cap or guard for damage and ensuring it’s properly secured to maintain effective preventive measures against their return.


Dealing with chimney swifts requires a balance between effective home maintenance and legal, ethical considerations. By understanding the nature of these birds, homeowners can better manage their presence, ensuring that both the swifts and the humans coexist harmoniously.