A chimney swift is a bird, an aerial insectivore that consumes more than 1000 insects per day. It roosts in brick-laid chimneys. It’s not a dusty child from a Charles Dickens novel!

When the winter hearth fires are put out until next autumn comes, this article, How to make your chimney a home for chimney swifts, is an inspiration to an urban wildlife lover (click the link for a 6-minute read).

The key point is if your chimney is not lined with a metal tube, you’re in luck! You could host some chimney swifts. Montreal’s population will be here in May.

Their numbers have dwindled and habitat has declined, but with an open-sided chimney cap, you could take part in boosting their numbers now! (If your chimney’s dirty, clean it — you need to do this for fire hazard and insurance purposes every few years, because creosote builds up.)

At Le Nichoir, where I’ve volunteered, they have a rehab aviary for the young and injured and a habitat for healthy chimney swifts. As I later found out, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 decimated Quebec’s population of chimney swifts. Their population still needs help.

“The chimney swift has declined in Canada by 90 percent since the 1970s. In Manitoba, we basically sit at the northwest periphery of its global range, and when a species declines it always declines from its edges… We’re probably at the frontline of trying to help this species here in Manitoba because we’re at that edge.”

Tim Poole, Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative

One of my friends, a wildlife technical teacher, lives on the fourth floor of an apartment building on the edge of Côte-des-Neiges. There are many chimney swifts in Côte-des-Neiges and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — you can see their aerial acrobatics and hear their calls on most late afternoons in summer. (Another friend nearby has had a bat swoop in through her open balcony door.) Here is a photo of a chimney swift which did the same, which she caught in her kitchen.

This is what we biologists call the dorsal view. Here is one in profile:

Profile of a chimney swift

If you want to see, hear, and learn more about chimney swifts, visit their All About Birds page.

All About Birds also has an article for “It Sounds Like There Are Birds Stuck In My Chimney. What Should I Do?

For more facts on Canada’s chimney swifts, look at their Species At Risk Fact Sheet.

Your call to action here is to see if you can accommodate chimney swifts in your chimney. If you can, please do!