Post updated 6/21/08 with good news.
When we bought this house we met with the previous owners. They were offering to sell us some of the furniture, including some antiques, that they didn't need in their new home. One thing we discussed was the Chimney Swifts. Our home has three uncapped chimneys and I was told that each year the Chimney Swifts came to roost and nest in the chimneys. The woman of the home explained she loved the Swifts and was fine with them being there so had not capped the chimneys. She said she had contemplated it and gave me a brochure of a company who did it. She stressed to me that if we choose to do this we must wait until the summer is over and until their nesting is over and they are gone. I agreed. I knew not a single thing about the Chimney Swifts but I did love wild birds and did feed them and provide nesting boxes for them at my former home.
I soon became acquainted with the Chimney Swifts. They make a unique, loud noise, kind of a big whooshing sound, as they enter and exit the chimney. They were nesting in the chimney in the sitting room which is next to my bedroom. The Swifts would come and go at all hours of the night, sometimes waking me at two in the morning with their loud whooshing. This went on until some time in August. They were roosting only in one of my chimneys.
Also while I was outdoors I'd hear the loud twittering of the Chimney Swifts. They practically dance in flight, flying quickly and weaving in and out and around each other while flying together. I have never seen them land, instead they fly and fly. They would pass overhead and loop around and then disappear into other parts of the neighborhood. Then they'd come back. All this time they would be singing.
I recall reading about their behavior as I didn't know anything about them back then. I learned they eat in flight and that they eat insects. I had read that usually they would roost all night and stay quiet but in areas with street lights or where yards were landscaped with all night lighting for show, they would exit the chimneys to eat the insects that congregate around lights at night. I reasoned this must be the case in my neighborhood as some neighbors have outdoor lighting that they keep on all night, illuminating the entire fronts of their houses for show (not for protection).
My husband wanted to cap the chimneys but didn't like the look of the caps. And the next May, the second year we were in the house, they came back and were nesting so they were there for another year. I learned then about babies. Wow, are they noisy. When the adult bird comes to the nest with food, the baby birds chirp and peep loudly. This went on day and night. As the baby birds got larger they got louder and louder and often would wake me up at night. I didn't mind. Then in August when they'd leave it would be silent and I'd not realize for a few days that I hadn't heard them at all. Then I'd miss them.
In 2006 I was inside a neighbor's house in June. I heard the Chimney Swifts in her chimney and commented. She thanked me for explaining what that was and said for years she thought it was raccoons nesting in her chimney and had twice called the chimney cleaners to come. No one ever said a raccoon was in there or that they found a Chimney Swift nest. She said that the room always had a terrible smell and that bothered her. So after that summer she installed caps on all of her chimneys.
I had read that the Chimney Swifts go to the same chimneys each year. So the next year her Swifts had no where to go. I then noticed that now two of my chimneys were being used for roosting.
One time I opened my flue and looked up my chimney with a flashlight. I found one nest. I was surprised as there were five Swifts flying around and it seemed there were so many coming in and out of the chimney all the time.
In the summer of 2007 by August I had seven Chimney Swifts flying together around my yard and some would enter my chimney.
In May 2008 the Chimney Swifts returned. This year I saw three of them together. This year they have been much quieter, not entering or leaving the chimney much. I don't wake in the middle of the night and hear them. I have hardly heard them at all as a matter of fact. In the first week of June I was doing a lot of outside yard work and also cleaning the garage and just spending time outside. I just realized I've not heard or seen the Chimney Swifts outside in at least ten days. You see usually you can hear them all day long and definitely at dusk they are flying all around and twittering. I now can't remember the last time I saw or heard them but I know they were here in May.
Update June 21: I heard and saw the Chimney Swifts today, there were five of them flying outside. I am wondering if one reason I'd not heard much of them inside my chimneys is maybe this year they didn't lay eggs in the nest this year and therefore are making less trips in and out of the chimney than when they have young to feed?
Technorati Tags: Chimney Swift, Chimney Swifts dying, Chaetura pelagica.