Chimney Owners Help Save the Chimney Swift

The Chimney Swift is a small insectivorous bird designated as threatened in Canada and likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable in Quebec. It is a very special bird because it can never perch on a branch. Its short legs allow it to cling only to vertical surfaces!

This migratory bird, present in Quebec from May to September, has suffered a decline in numbers of more than 95% from 1968 to 2004, mainly due to the decline of suitable nesting sites for the species.

Prior to European colonization, swifts used large dead and hollow trees as nesting sites. Unfortunately, the number of these dead trees, called snags, has drastically decreased as forests have been cleared. Gradually, swifts turned to masonry chimneys for nesting, hence the name “chimney swift”.

Today, swifts nest primarily in urban environments inside masonry chimneys and, to a lesser extent, in their natural habitat inside large hollow trees. The swift holds its nest, made of small twigs, to the inner wall of its shelter with its sticky saliva.

Habitat loss is a major cause of swift’s decline. Aging masonry chimneys are often destroyed or restored in ways that are inappropriate for the bird’s needs. For example, the installation of a spark arrestor or cap to prevent water infiltration inside chimneys makes them unusable for swifts. Chimney sweeping during the nesting season is also detrimental; it can lead to nest destruction or abandonment of the nesting site by the birds. In the wild, large trees, which are highly prized by forestry, continue to disappear, reducing the potential number of large-diameter dead trees available for nesting.

Several municipalities in Appalachian Corridor’s territory are home to the Chimney Swift. Since 2009, Chimney Swift counts have been conducted so that voluntary conservation actions can be taken to protect its habitat. Owners of buildings whose chimneys are used by swifts have been contacted to make them aware of the presence of the species, and to obtain their moral commitment to conserve their chimneys in conditions that are suitable for use by the chimney swift.