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Chimney Swift Fund

Photo: Ron d’Entremont

The Chimney Swift Chimney Restoration Fund (the Chimney Swift Fund) is a project undertaken by Birds Canada with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal department of Environment and Climate Change and with support and guidance from diverse partners from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia.

 

Partners

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Nature Saskatchewan

QuébecOiseaux

Nature Trust of New Brunswick

Nature NB

Nova Scotia Bird Society

Goal

The goal of the Chimney Swift Fund is to help maintain nesting and roosting sites for the Chimney Swift by providing financial support for the restoration of anthropogenic structures (i.e., chimneys, barns, etc.) known to be important for the species in Canada. The Chimney Swift Fund helps address the threat of continued habitat loss to Chimney Swifts and aids recovery efforts for this species at risk.

Chimney Swifts above a chimney
Photo: Erin Brethauer

The Chimney Swift, a Species at Risk

Resembling a swallow, the Chimney Swift is a small dark gray-brown bird characterized by a cigar-shaped body, long, narrow, and tapered wings, and a short tail. The Chimney Swift is both an aerial insectivore and a long-distance migrant, two groups of North American birds that are in decline. It breeds in eastern North America and spends much of the rest of the year in northwestern South America.

Its breeding range in Canada is situated in the south-central and southeastern parts of the country, extending from eastern Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. Most Chimney Swifts arrive in Canada between late April and mid-May, depending on the latitude of a given site. Most have left for their southbound migration by mid-October.

In the past, Chimney Swifts mainly nested and roosted in large-diameter hollow trees in old-growth forests. However, over the past 400 years there has been a drastic reduction in the numbers of suitable hollow, mature trees within the North American landscape, and the species has become largely dependent on anthropogenic structures, primarily chimneys, for nesting and roosting.

While a chimney used for nesting is occupied by only one pair, several dozen to more than 1,000 individuals may roost in a single chimney at night or in cold or rainy weather during the day. Roosts are mostly used by migrating birds but can be used by non-breeding individuals throughout the summer period.

The Canadian population of Chimney Swifts has declined by nearly 90% since 1970, likely due to reduced insect prey availability and the loss of nesting and roosting sites. The Chimney Swift has been listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act since 2009 and is also protected under province-specific laws and regulations in the provinces where it breeds. The breeding population size in Canada is currently estimated to be between 20,000 and 70,000 individuals.

As Chimney Swifts show high fidelity to their nesting and roosting sites, a threat to their survival is the loss of suitable chimneys. Capping, lining, and screening of chimneys renders the chimneys unusable to Chimney Swifts, and the demolition of degraded chimneys removes the habitat entirely for this species. The Chimney Swift Fund will help partners and chimney owners undertake work to repair damaged chimneys and thus maintain the structures as usable Chimney Swift habitat. This will help reduce the impact of habitat loss on this species at risk.

Who can apply

  1. Any owner of a chimney or other structure in need of repair that is known to be used by Chimney Swifts for nesting or roosting in Canada.
  2. A third party, such as a conservation group, may lead a restoration project for an owner, for which they will work to provide the necessary matching funds (at least 50% of the total amount) from non-federal sources.

Chimney owners who are located in Manitoba should first contact the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative who has a specific way of funding chimney restoration projects in this province.

Eligible restoration projects

Any repair work to an anthropogenic structure, such as a chimney, used by nesting or roosting Chimney Swifts anywhere within the Canadian range may be eligible for financial support. Funds from the Chimney Swift Fund may cover up to a maximum of 50% of the total cost of the restoration project. An applicant will be required to match funds on a 1:1 basis.

Repair work on the structure must be done in such a way as not to alter the characteristics that make it suitable for the Chimney Swift. The repair of a chimney should meet the following criteria:

  • The size of the chimney opening (flue) shall not be reduced so as to prevent swifts from entering the chimney. A diameter (round chimney) or diagonal (rectangular chimney) greater than 28.5 cm is generally an adequate size for the species. A chimney opening whose original dimensions are less than this should not be narrowed.
  • If the repair work involves reducing the height of the chimney, a final height (the distance from the rooftop where the chimney emerges to the top of the chimney) of at least 2 m should be maintained.
  • The interior of the chimney will retain a rough or porous surface (made of brick, stone or concrete).
  • The chimney opening will not be obstructed by a screen, cap or spark arrestor.

Priority will be given to projects deemed to have the greatest impact for Chimney Swift conservation provincially and nationally, and so funds will be allocated to the repair of high-priority structures first (see Selection process below). Though this may mean that a project may not receive funding in a given year, it does not mean that it will not be eligible for support in a subsequent year.

Eligible costs

All costs associated with the repair are eligible for 1:1 matched support and these include, but are not limited to chimney assessment, materials, and labour costs.

Timeframe for repair work

A quote for the repair work must be obtained from a contractor, and the repair work must be scheduled during periods when the chimney is not being used by Chimney Swifts (this varies between September and May, depending on the location).

Submitting a funding proposal

Please read the Application Guidelines and submit your application using the Application Form (see below).

Applications for support for restoration projects are due by April 21, 2022. Funding decisions will be announced in July 2022.

Need for a provincial permit

The Chimney Swift Fund provides financial support to Chimney Swift habitat restoration projects that do not impair the function of the habitat (for Chimney Swifts) and that are conducted during the time of the year when Chimney Swifts are absent. Under these conditions, a provincial permit is not required to conduct a restoration project in Saskatchewan, Québec or New Brunswick.

In Nova Scotia, a permit is required by the province even when the project is conducted outside of the period when Chimney Swifts are present. Please contact the Biodiversity Program of the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (Biodiversity@novascotia.ca) to get the necessary application form.

In Ontario, information about the restoration project needs to be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (SAROntario@ontario.ca) to determine whether a permit would be required or not.

Selection process

Applications will be evaluated by the Chimney Swift Fund Committee, which is comprised of members from different regions across the Canadian geographic range of the species. The members of the Committee will give precedence to projects that target the restoration of structures that (1) have been identified as critical habitat in the Recovery Strategy for the Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) in Canada or (2) that have been monitored through a regional/provincial initiative.

Successful applicants

Successful applicants will be required to sign an Agreement with Birds Canada before the first payment can be made. This document includes an agreement that the repair work will be carried out and that it will preserve the characteristics that make the structure suitable for the use of the Chimney Swift.

Successful applicants will be required to agree to maintain the structure accessible to Chimney Swifts through a long-term protection plan (10 years). Successful applicants will also be required to commit to monitoring Chimney Swift use of the structure (2-4 hours per year) in the 5 years subsequent to the restoration work, which may be done by volunteers from provincial Chimney Swift monitoring programs.

Half of the awarded amount will be sent at the start of the repair work and the other half, on completion of the work.

Links to key resources

Sharing your home with Chimney Swifts: All you need to know to help this Species at Risk – Birds Canada

Key information for municipalities and chimney service providers – Birds Canada

Revealing the life of our upstairs neighbours: Chimney Swifts (video) – Birds Canada

SwiftWatch – Birds Canada

Recovery Strategy for the Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) in Canada

Chimney Swift species account in the Species at Risk Public Registry

COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) in Canada

Saskatchewan Chimney Swift Initiative

Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative

Information on the Chimney Swift and its protection – QuébecOiseaux (in French only)

Contact information

For more information or to let us know that Chimney Swifts are using your chimney, please contact us at chimneyswiftfund @ birdscanada.org.

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