The Return of the Barn Swallows

Excerpts of an email to OBP by member Ted Spearing, edited by Jim Campbell

I’m writing back in response to the newsletter and also a previous email concerning barn swallows. We have a wholesale nursery in Bethany. I am from a farm and the barn in question is on a farm beside the home place.


Horticulture seemed like a viable way to utilize a farm that wasn’t productive enough for conventional agriculture, so we pursued the idea.

As buildings for the nursery were created, there became a need for year-round packing/potting sheds.


There have always been swallows around the barns and sheds but the potting sheds began to attract them on a regular basis.


It has now been probably 30 years that we have hosted birds and as successive buildings appeared it created more nesting spots.


We are quite sure that the birds we see every year are returning adults, and offspring as the years go by. Interestingly, every spring, when things begin to warm up, there will be one or two that appear, sometimes for an afternoon and sometimes overnight.

From “Barn swallow populations declining at alarming rate” by David Hawke/OrilliaMatters

They check out the buildings and know exactly where to enter or exit. Then, depending on the weather, others return and start claiming the nest they want to use. It often is a couple weeks before those that are returning are back, but nesting starts shortly thereafter. We make sure to leave doors open long enough at night so everyone is in and warm and the same in the morning so that they can all get out asap. Unfortunately, some years, not as many return as others but there have been as many as 17 nesting pairs and a dozen is pretty usual. Most hatch two sets of young and often a late hatching is nip & tuck for getting away in the fall in time. They are happy cheery little things and staff enjoy them in the sheds despite the racket some days. Anyways, we enjoy having them here.

Take care, Ted Spearing, Ground Covers Unlimited


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