Chimney swifts looking for suitable nesting sites

They’re baaaak.

They are the chimney swifts, which have nested in our chimney in Decatur for the past several springs in a row. We don’t know if it’s the same pair from previous years or another pair, but, whatever, we’re glad to host them again.

Recently returned from their winter homes deep in the Amazon Basin in South America, the birds can be heard fluttering and twittering in the chimney now during the early evening, presumably building a nest. (Usually, a single chimney hosts only one pair of swifts)

The birds build a half-saucer shape nest from twigs and other plant material. Using saliva, they glue the material together and to the chimney wall. The female lays four to five whitish eggs, which hatch in about 21 days. The babies, which can be very noisy, fledge about a month after hatching.

Known as “flying cigars” because of their sleek shapes, chimney swifts now rely almost totally on man-made structures such as fireplace chimneys, air shafts and abandoned buildings for nesting and shelter. Deforestation and loss of large hollow trees have caused a scarcity of natural roosting and nesting sites.

But the birds can’t use just any chimney. Its inside walls must be made of stone, firebrick or masonry flue tiles with mortared joints, which allow the birds to cling to the walls — unlike the metal materials used in more modern homes.

Chimney swifts’ small but strong feet and four sharp gripping claws allow them to cling to rough vertical surfaces. Most other songbirds perch or stand upright.

The Atlanta Audubon Society encourages homeowners with suitable chimneys to provide temporary homes for the birds. A reward may be a less buggy yard — one chimney swift may eat 1,000 mosquito-sized insects per day.

Atlanta Audubon is building a 24-foot-tall “chimney swift tower” as part of a bird-friendly habitat that it’s creating in Piedmont Park. The tower will provide a nesting and roosting site for the swifts.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be first quarter on Monday. Mercury is low in the east just before dawn. Brightly shining Venus is in the west at dusk and sets about two hours later. Mars and Saturn rise in the east around midnight. Jupiter is in the east at dusk.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

‘American Idol’ Atlanta auditions at Infinite Energy draw first and second-round hopefuls
‘American Idol’ Atlanta auditions at Infinite Energy draw first and second-round hopefuls

“American Idol” Thursday held its final early-round auditions at Infinite Energy Arena before the three celebrity judges start vetting the talent. Patrick Lynn, the supervising producer who has overseen “Idol” auditions since the show’s launch in 2002, said in an interview that the audition date was added on the schedule...
CDC approves nasal-spray vaccine for flu season
CDC approves nasal-spray vaccine for flu season

After advising the public to avoid the nasal-spray version of the flu vaccine for the past two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now giving it the green light. A favorite of the needle-averse, the spray did not appear to work as well against H1N1, a strain of the flu, in the past few seasons, the CDC said. But it’s expected...
HPV-related cancer rates are rising. Vaccine rates are rising, too

Cancers linked to the human papillomavirus have increased significantly over the last 15 years in the United States, with throat cancer now the most common HPV-related malignancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 43,000 people developed HPV-associated cancer in 2015, compared with about 30,000 in 1999, the CDC...
Lab-approved ways to disaster-proof your home
Lab-approved ways to disaster-proof your home

Whether you’re an owner or a renter, stay one step ahead of fires, leaks, floods and worse with our expert advice to avoid costly repairs and keep your family safe. Four ways to fireproof the fam In a recent survey, you told us that unexpected flames are your No. 1 home concern. Follow this checklist to ease your fire fears: 1. Assess your equipment...
Huge clinical trial collapses, research on alcohol remains befuddling

Research on alcohol consumption is in a pickle. There’s no question that pounding one drink after another is bad for your health. Things get murkier when it comes to “moderate” drinking. What does that mean? What’s the limit? Can a health-conscious person serenely order a second round? The alcohol industry has long embraced...
More Stories