Currently listed as threatened on the Species at Risk list, Barn Swallows have suffered a population decrease of 65% in recent years. As is the case with all species that make it onto this list, habitat loss is one factor to blame. Barn Swallows prefer an open habitat including city parks, agricultural land, and bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and ponds. As cities grow and land is developed, these open expanses where Barn Swallows live are being destroyed.
Barn Swallows construct their mud nests in a variety of locations, but prefer some type of ledge on a human made structure. Places where Barn Swallows nest include under bridges, eaves troughs, and on top of rafters or beams in sheds and garages. Modern buildings constructed of aluminum or galvanized steel are tightly sealed. This denies Barn Swallows access to their beams and rafters, drastically reducing the number of potential nest sites. If you are a landowner with Barn Swallows on your property, providing these birds with an alternative nesting option is something you can do to help reduce the further decline of this species.
While attending BeeFest at The Hive in south London last summer, I noticed several Barn Swallows flying over the open fields of the property. Several of their small mud nests could be seen under the eaves troughs and overhangs of various buildings located on the property.
Last week I contacted Jenna Goodhand, owner of The Hive, and asked if she would be interested in adding some nest platforms to the sides of the buildings to increase the number of locations where Barn Swallows could build their nests. Knowing the state of these threatened birds, Jenna was more than happy to help out. I was invited out to survey the area and collectively decide where the nest platforms would be best suited.
Barn Swallows will reuse the same nest each year, so buildings with sufficient overhangs and ledges and those with nests from last season attached were avoided. It was obvious that the birds were successful here and didn’t require our help. Our focus was on the buildings that had no nests attached. These buildings had great overhangs for nesting under, but lacked a small ledge or suitable surface for the Barn Swallows to attach a mud nest to. Our goal was to install the nest platforms on these buildings to provide more Barn Swallows and future generations of Barn Swallows adequate structures on which to build their nests in hopes of increasing their population. After determining adequate locations, several nest platforms were installed. Jenna and I will be monitoring these platforms throughout the year and I will be adding updates to my blog regarding their success once the birds have returned to the area.
These custom made Barn Swallows nest platforms differ from commercial nest platforms in that the ledge is only 2.5″ wide. This narrow ledge is wide enough for the Barn Swallows to construct their nest, but narrow enough to deter other birds that nest on platforms such as the American Robin or Mourning Dove. Barn Swallow nest platforms should be installed under an overhang on the side of a human made building such as a shed, garage or boathouse; not on a tree or fence post as is the case with nest boxes. Recommended mounting height for the platforms is 7-12 feet off the ground and 5 feet apart. Facing the platforms north or east will ensure they do not get too hot from the afternoon sun. As mentioned, Barn Swallows construct their nests from mud, so positioning the platforms near a garden, shoreline, or other mud source will add to their success.
If you have Barn Swallows on your property, consider adding nest platforms to your buildings to help this delicate species. Providing adequate habitat and sufficient nest sites are easy steps landowners can take to ensure the future of this species. For best results, platforms should be installed before the birds return, so act fast. Barn Swallows, an aerial insectivore, are great birds to have around as they naturally control insect populations. If adding nest platforms is something you are interested in, my previous post Barn Swallows Nest Platforms has more information, including more images and dimensions.
A special thanks to Jenna Goodhand of The Hive for doing her part to help save a Species at Risk. If you wish to follow along throughout the season, subscribe to my blog via email and have new posts including updates from The Hive sent right to your inbox.