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Barn and Cliff Swallows

by Linda Marie Glass Ward (Barn Swallow Carpenter).

In the spring of 2014 my interest in birds gained momentum when my husband and I saw a rare Black-backed Woodpecker in Algonquin Park.

The following summer we went on a horse riding holiday near Port Rowan Ontario, where we went to the Bird Studies Canada office there.  I learned about  the plight of Canda’s Swallows in the information provided there so I decided to try to do something about it.

Since 1980, in Ontario, most swallow populations have decreased by about eighty percent.  This includes Barn and Cliff swallows once so common in Canada.  Common sense tells us that the lack of suitable nesting sites is the biggest factor.  At lease eighty percent of the old barns have been sealed, torn down, or fallen.  

Barn and Cliff Swallows nested inside and on the outside of man-made structures since the dawn of civilization.  Because they are aerial insectivores, entirely dependent on insects for food, their preference for nesting in old barns or under bridges is not a coincidence.  They are unlike many migrating birds, which can survive on fruit and seeds.

Barn Swallows usually nest inside structures but sometimes nest under eaves, decks or veranda roofs.  They will fasten their nest to a rough vertical surface or on a protrusion such as a shelf, nail or light fixture.  They generally nest at least four feet apart.  Cliff Swallows also fasten their nests to rough surfaces inside buildings and under bridges.  Before it was common to clad farm buildings with steel siding Cliff Swallows commonly placed their nests side by side under the eaves.  They are much more communal than Barn Swallows and their mud nest often abut each other.

Barn Swallows live on all continents except Antarctica.  Those from Canada may migrate from as far north as James Bay, to the middle of Chile and Argentina in South America.  Cliff Swallows live only in The Americas.  In Canada there are seven species of Swallow.

If Barn or Cliff Swallows arrive on your property please invite them to nest inside your barn by leaving a door, or large window open for them twenty four hours a day from April first till mid September. 

Is anyone interested in starting a Barn Swallow Society?  That is one reason Bluebird population made a good recovery.  There are Blue Bird societies all over North America.

Please help Barn Swallows and other Swallows or other native birds.  There are many things you can do.  Please contact me on Facebook or by telephone;

Linda Marie Glass Ward (Barn Swallow Carpenter) 519 327-4541.

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