Chimney Swift Situations & Solutions

Chimney Swift nest & eggs © Shawn P. Carey, Migration Productions
Chimney Swift nest © Shawn P. Carey

Chimney Swifts are the only Massachusetts bird that builds its nest and successfully raises its young in chimneys. While they may roost in large numbers in big chimneys or airshafts, only single pairs nest in house chimneys.

If a homeowner determines that there is a nest in the chimney—usually by the loud chattering of the young as the parents enter with food—there is no reason for concern. The presence of a nest will not cause a fire or spread disease.

The only time it is necessary to intervene is if an active nest has fallen onto the damper or into the fireplace. In this case, every attempt should be made to return the young to the chimney so the parents can continue to care for them.

Returning a Nest Through the Fireplace

Nail a small basket (a plastic berry basket is fine) near the top of a piece of wood that is at least 5 inches wide and 3-4 feet long. Place the young—and any remnants of the nest—into the basket. Then carefully raise the board into the chimney, rest it on the damper, and lean it against the inside chimney wall.

The nest should be as high as possible in the chimney, allowing the parents to fly down the chimney and feed the young from behind.

Wait a few hours for the parents to locate the nest, then listen for the loud chattering of the young as a parent enters the chimney with food. When the adult leaves, the nest is silent until the parent once again returns with food.

If the adults are feeding the young in the replacement nest, no further steps are required.

Wildlife Rehabilitators

Many licensed wildlife rehabilitators will not take baby Chimney Swifts. Their diet of regurgitated insects makes it nearly impossible for the young to survive in the care of humans. The only option may be to place the young in the woods and let nature take its course.

Remember, young birds face naturally tough odds—only 30% of young songbirds survive their first year of life. This is nature's way of maintaining population sizes that the environment can support.