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Hundreds of small birds invade two Arroyo Grande homes through chimneys

Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 00:28:39-04

A few unwanted roommates are making themselves comfortable in people's chimneys.

Hundreds of small birds called swifts are making their way into some Central Coast homes through chimneys in search of nesting sites and causing property damage.

There have been several reports this week, two in Arroyo Grande and one in Montecito.

Joni Anderson's office on Le Point St. was the scene of a bird invasion over the weekend.

“We tried to chase them off because we have a lot of high peaks in the office and they were just clinging to the walls and it was the weirdest thing,” Anderson said.

Video taken by firefighters shows nearly 1,000 swifts trying to fly out of the chimney and into the living room of a Montecito home on Monday.

Luckily, a fireplace covering blocked them from getting inside, but some other Arroyo Grande residents, who declined an interview, weren't as lucky.

“[The residents] left to run some errands and when they got back, the birds were already in the house. We are not sure how long they were in there,” Five Cities Fire Authority Captain Patrick Ferguson said. "There was a ton of bird droppings throughout the house."

On Saturday, Five Cities Fire Authority responded to a house on Le Point St. after about 300 birds flew inside.

“This is very uncommon, at least for me,” Captain Ferguson said. “We've gone out to assist with animals, a bat, we've had raccoons, squirrels, and other animals in structures, but this was our first bird swarm."

Looking at the video, bird expert Mike Stiles said the birds are likely looking for a roosting or nesting site and a chimney might be their ideal spot.

“A lot of these birds will nest in rock overhangs or walls of caves or underneath rocks, so I guess it mimics a rock wall or cave setting,” Stiles said. "Swifts are communal nesters. They nest in big groups like that, side by side in massive numbers sometimes."

Experts said spring and summer are the prime nesting seasons for every bird in the county.

“The best thing to do is be proactive and put a chimney cap or screen over your chimney opening,” Stiles said.

That's something Anderson won't put off again.

"[The chimney cap] blew down a couple of years ago and I've had it sitting in my office having good intentions of putting it back up and hadn't gotten around to it so my husband climbed up and put it on right away," she said.

According to federal law, you can only get rid of a nest once all the birds are gone.

It's a federal crime to remove a swift's nest if they have already laid eggs.