Torrance home invaded by more than 800 birds

It was like a scene out of a Hitchcock movie: Hundreds of migrating birds swarmed a house in Torrance before swooping down the chimney — and driving the residents to a hotel.

Stunning footage of the April 21 invasion captured the moment the cloud of birds dove into the vent.

“It’s so hard to explain. If you don’t see it with your own eyes, you’d never believe it,” Kerri, who lives in the home with her husband and child, told KTLA-TV Channel 5. She asked that her last name not be used.

Other videos showed the birds, later identified as Vaux’s swifts, hanging on the ceilings and flapping against the windows of the house. They had taken over every room.

“We lost count after 800,” Kerri said.

The local sheriff’s station put the family in contact with county animal control officials, who advised them to leave the doors open, she said. But the birds didn’t budge.


The family stayed in a hotel overnight while a relative tried to usher the avians out of the house, sometimes plucking them one by one off furniture and blinds. Kerri said nearly every surface was covered in bird droppings.

Sgt. Steven Velasquez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Carson said Friday that he had not heard of any other homeowners in the Torrance area experiencing anything like the invasion.

But other families in California have seen similar situations. In Santa Barbara County, the Montecito Fire Department on Sunday responded to a call about 1,000 small birds trapped inside a home’s chimney, officials said.

Firefighters worked with Santa Barbara County Animal Services to create a chute system to “funnel the birds out of the fireplace and release them through the home’s back doors,” they said in a post on Instagram alongside video of the birds in the fireplace.

Although the recent bird invasions seem alarming, experts said its typical behavior for Vaux’s Swifts, which migrate through Los Angeles twice a year.

“That’s exactly what the Swifts do,” said Travis Longcore, president of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. “It’s to the week, the exact time, when these birds come through.”

In fact, Vaux’s Swifts travel through the region with such regularity that a network of bird-watchers track them as they move between Central America and the Pacific Northwest, he said. The birds historically roosted in hollow trees, but have taken to chimneys as more and more of those trees get cut down. For many years, they favored a chimney in downtown L.A.

And because the Swifts are a protected species, the residents in Torrance did “exactly the right thing” by getting out of the house without harming the birds, Longcore said.

“As completely annoying and scary as it would be for that family, there’s something really special about this phenomenon,” he added. “This is something that we should want to happen as a city, because it connects us to our place in the world, it connects us to our neighbors, and to the nature to the south and to the north.”

Both Longcore and Dr. Guthrum Purdin, a veterinarian with the California Wildlife Center in Malibu, said the recent incidents are a reminder that people should take the extra safety step of putting screens on their chimneys. In addition to birds, animals like squirrels and raccoons can come in the same way, Purdin said, and may be confused if they enter the house.

“Unfortunately, many animals, once in a chimney, can’t get back out,” he said. “The best thing a homeowner or resident can do is have a cap over the chimney. This allows smoke to exit but won’t allow animals to enter.”

Kerri, the Torrance resident, told KTLA she was “OK with the birds,” but said she doesn’t ever want one of her own.