Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
As insectivores, swallows are typically tolerated by humans and do not follow into the same niche as common nuisance species, birds like the starling, pigeon, or sparrow. However, in larger family groups, or depending on where a single pair chooses to build a nest, these birds can still lead to some negative human/wildlife conflict.
While nesting swallows can become quite aggressive if the nest is in a location where humans would frequent, this can lead to swooping and harassing behavior anytime a human is near the bird’s nest.
Most of the conflict from nesting barn swallows is rooted in the mess these birds can create when their numbers grow, typically accumulating feces on porches, in barns, under decks, or around garages.
Once soiled, these areas also provide an incubation area for a host of diseases that include but are not limited to histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis, and toxoplasmosis, alongside common ectoparasites associated with them such as fleas, mites, and lice.
Barn swallows are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, so the possible legal remedies for dealing with them are limited.
Two options typically present themselves on most swallow jobs. StealthNet® and BirdSlide® are the more sophisticated options. Netting is installed in a way to make the areas that the swallows are occupying inaccessible, and a slide is installed to create angles that make building nests impossible for the swallow.
Few visual deterrents work for nesting barn swallows, however, optic discs are quite successful at deterring birds off of specific locations, and they are most widely used in the cases involving single nesting pairs in locations close to human interaction.
Due to the swallows’ legal protection, no nest removal or cleanup can be performed while the birds are present, and all jobs of this nature must be performed once the birds have left for the winter.
Barn swallows are most commonly found in open range areas near both water sources and large pasture areas. Typically they are not a prevalent species in urban areas. Due to suburban sprawl, they are readily found in subdivisions that bump up to, or run parallel with, pasture land. Artificial structures aid swallows by providing other sites to build their nests, and thus are yet another species that tends to live in general congruence with humans. They are the most widely found swallow worldwide of all swallow species and fall under the protection status of “least concern,” but they are nonetheless protected.
Barn swallows are voracious insectivores eating bees, wasps, grasshoppers, and various other insects. This is not a bird that would be increased/decreased due to bird feeders being prevalent in people’s yards.
Barn swallows are one of the more unique nesters in the realm of birds. They build their nests in very succinct shapes attached to the sides of beams, wood, brick, or anything with a service 90 degrees to the ground and under shelter. The nest will be made from mud and dried vegetation and can be built quite rapidly, usually in a maximum of two weeks. These nests are commonly called “mud cups” and can be attached to almost any material.
Barn swallows are a somewhat colonial species that can live in groups, from a few nesting pairs up to a few dozen pairs. Swallows will continue to return to the same nesting sites year after year, leading to larger family groups. Nests are prized due to the intricacy of their design and will be reused year to year. In larger areas, such as barns, large upper-story decks, and warehouses, these family groups can easily reach numbers of 50 to 100 birds in total.
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