Alter a Chimney (habitat for Chimney Swift)
The rules for altering a chimney that is habitat for chimney swift.
Effective July 1, 2013.
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Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects endangered or threatened species — animals and plants that are in decline and disappearing from the province.
A chimney swift is a bird that is a threatened species.
You need to follow certain rules if you want to repair, maintain, modify, replace or demolish a chimney that is the habitat for chimney swift. This only applies to the actual chimney, not other areas of habitat.
This is a summary of the provincial laws. You can find a complete set of provincial rules related to this activity in:
This page is for informational purposes only. You should not rely on it to determine your legal obligations. To determine your legal obligations, consult the Endangered Species Act, 2007 and its regulations.
If you need legal advice, consult a legal professional. In the event of an error on this page or a conflict between this page and any applicable law, the law prevails.
- register the work and the affected species with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (before work begins)
- minimize the effects of your activity on chimney swift
- in most cases, create and maintain new habitat for chimney swift
- report sightings of rare species (and update registration documents, if needed)
- monitor the new habitat you create and report on certain observations
- prepare and maintain records that relate to the activity and the habitat
How to register
Minimize effects on chimney swift
- avoid anything that could harm the bird(s) if they are using the chimney
- take steps to prevent the bird(s) from building nests or entering the chimney during their active season, generally between April – October (e.g. cap the chimney)
Create new habitat
You must take certain steps to create habitat, if you:
- destroy a chimney that is habitat for chimney swift
- alter a chimney so that it’s no longer suitable for nesting, resting or roosting or shrinks the area for these activities
- make a chimney unavailable for nesting, resting or roosting for more than 1 active season
- create new habitat by building at least 1 new structure or modifying an existing chimney to suit the bird(s)
- build or modify the structure within 2 km of the affected chimney
- provide more habitat than the affected chimney
- build using specific dimensions (e.g. single structures must be at least the same size and no larger than 1.5 times the size of the affected chimney)
- include features to attract chimney swift (e.g. install a sun collar or plant native shrubs to attract insects)
- provide suitable conditions for chimney swift, including:
- temperatures that accommodate nesting, resting and roosting during the active season
- accessible entry and exit points
- an interior surface made of unpainted, rough textured material that is appropriate for clinging and nest attachment (e.g. brick or cinder block)
- appropriate interior dimensions and height
You must also maintain this habitat for 3 years after it is created.
You must complete the work on habitat either:
- before the next active season begins (if work started outside the active season) or
- before the active season begins, if work will be done during that active season
Activities impacting a single active season
You do not need to create new habitat, if:
- activities will make a chimney unavailable for only a single active season
- the amount of habitat will be the same or greater
Instead, you must improve the chimney to make it better for chimney swift:
- increasing the height of the chimney
- installing a sun collar
- cutting back vegetation near the opening of the chimney
- monitor habitat you create during the active season to see if it’s being used
- record the information you collect during monitoring, including:
- an estimate of the number of chimney swift entering or exiting the structure and
- evidence of chimney swift nesting in the structure.
You must monitor habitat for at least 3 years after it is created.
During this time, if you don’t see the birds entering/exiting the structure, you need to keep monitoring the structure for another 2 years. If the birds enter and exit the structure, you do not need to monitor further.
Report a sighting
If you see or encounter a chimney swift while you are monitoring, you must inform the Natural Heritage Information Centre — within 3 months after monitoring is complete for that year.
Find our how to report a rare species
You must prepare and keep a record of your work — called a Chimney Swift Mitigation and Restoration Record.
This record must:
- describe the chimney and your activity (before you begin)
- estimate the number of chimney swift using the chimney (before you begin)
- list the steps you took to minimize effects on chimney swift
- describe what you did to create habitat
- include information collected during monitoring
You must prepare the record before work begins (with information on the existing chimney and habitat). You must regularly update the record.
You must keep the record for 5 years after you have completed your activity — and give a copy within 14 days to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, if asked.
When you need a permit
You could still need a permit if activities will impact:
- areas surrounding the chimney
- natural nesting or roosting sites (e.g. trees)
To apply for a permit, contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
Identify a species at risk
If you are unsure about a certain species — and would like help identifying or confirming what it is — you can see photos and get more information on the Endangered Species website.