Tired Of Mosquitoes? Chimney swifts are a swift idea.

Chimney swifts spend most of their lives in the air catching mosquitoes, swarming termites, biting flies and other insect pests.

They arrive in late March and nest from May to August, returning to Peru in early November. Our only local swift increased in numbers and range as humans built houses with chimneys. These chimneys replaced the holes in large dead trees that were the traditional nesting sites. Now chimney swifts are in decline because people screen them out of the chimney top. The sound of the chicks chirping can be loud for ten days.

Only one nest is built in each chimney and one clutch of three to five eggs is laid. This makes nesting sites very important because the swifts simply won’t double up somewhere else. The half saucer shaped nest is made of small twigs glued together with saliva to the side of the chimney. A species in Asia makes its nest entirely of saliva which hardens and is collected by local people to export for birds nest soup. OK, don’t think about it.

Just before migration, chimney swifts congregate in often large groups and may use your chimney to roost in at night. It is a beautiful sight to see hundreds of these birds returning at dusk as they twitter and dive-bomb insects near the entrance before settling in.

You can help swifts by removing barriers to your brick chimney entrance, metal ones aren’t used, yet the best thing that you can do for almost immediate results is to build a nest box. This is not easy and having a twelve foot tall wooden tower in your back yard may not be for everyone. Maybe they can be added to our local parks and common areas. Go to www.chimneyswifts.org for design ideas.

My neighbor has a brick chimney and we all get to enjoy seeing dozens of swifts hover around it each summer evening. It seems as if the mosquitoes are less of a problem too.

In European towns and cities, common swifts return by the hundreds at dusk to their chimney roosts. Few mosquitoes survive this attach and the sight of these speedsters is uplifting. We can duplicate this in our area with nest boxes and hopefully reduce the need for aerial spraying for mosquitoes which of course also kills butterflies, and other beneficial insects.