When it comes to house fires that are caused by home heating equipment and devices, 42% of them involve fireplaces and chimneys. Due to this, it's important to inspect the fireplace and chimney you had installed by a company like Alpine Fireplaces before lighting up a fire, especially if you haven't used it for several months since the last cold spell. When doing so, you may find evidence of birds in your chimney. These birds are called chimney swifts and are on the protected species list. Here's what you need to know about chimney swifts.
Swifts prefer chimneys and hollow trees
Swifts have feet that are angled in such a way to allow the birds to cling to vertical structures. They use their sticky, glue-like saliva to build nests and attach the nests to vertical objects. They prefer enclosed structures for the protection from weather elements, which is why they often make their homes inside chimneys and hollow trees.
Evidence of swifts in your chimney may be found in your fireplace
Take a close look at your fireplace and you may find evidence of a family of swifts living in your chimney. Look for fuzz from baby birds, feathers, bird droppings and twigs. Listen for sounds coming from the chimney above, such as chirps and high-pitched chattering, and rustling feathers. If you notice any of these things, you'll need to be careful about how you address the situation.
What not to do
Since chimney swifts are protected, you could be fined if you injure or kill them. You could also be fined if you disturb their nests. The fine imposed could be as high as $15,000 per bird, which includes each egg. When you consider that one family of chimney swifts could have at least a breeding pair and one egg, a fine can amount to $45,000. Therefore, do not do anything to harm, kill, or disturb them.
Do not light a fire in your fireplace. Doing so could result in a nest catching on fire inside your chimney. The nests could also block the smoke and carbon monoxide from rising up your chimney, which can cause the smoke and dangerous gas to fill your home. Due to the fines involved, you will need to wait until after the birds have migrated south for the winter before you can clear away nests and other debris from the chimney so you can use your fireplace.
Do not remove the droppings without proper protection. You'll want to wear rubber gloves and a mask over your nose and mouth. The droppings in your fireplace can make you ill. Bird droppings contain a fungus that can make you ill if you breathe the spores into your lungs. The illness is called histoplasmosis.
What to do
Hire a chimney sweep to clean the chimney. It's important to know that these professionals will not risk getting fined if the nests are still active. It's also a good idea to call the wildlife officer in your county. He or she can give you and your chimney sweep the "all clear" for when the nests are no longer active.
To prevent the swifts from returning after winter, install a cap over the top of your chimney to prevent them from being able to get back in. Your chimney sweep or a fireplace contractor can do this for you.
Since you are removing their access to your chimney, it's a good idea to provide them with an alternative location to build their nests and raise their family. You can hire a mason to construct a faux chimney on your roof for them to nest in. Alternatively, you can hire a tree service to hollow out a tree in your backyard.
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