Have you ever seen the silhouette of a swallow? It is unmistakable… with its sharply pointed, angled wings and forked tail. Swallows are a group of passerine birds characterized by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Swallows have adapted to hunting insects on the wing by developing a slender streamlined body, and long pointed wings, which allows great maneuverability and endurance. Swallows are often seen darting swiftly across the sky, catching insects in midair. Swallows are excellent fliers, and they use their skills to attract a mate & to defend their territory. Swallows probably spend more time on the wing than any other songbird in the world. According to the book "Peterson First Guides: Birds", written by Roger Tory Peterson, there are seventy-five types of swallows worldwide. Eight members of the seventy-five species breed in North America:
Some very "COOL FACTS" about Swallows
Amazingly, swallows come back to the same nests year after year. They usually build their nests within just a few miles of the nest their parents inhabit. Swallows repair old or weakened nests which last for many years. An average swallow lives about four years, and old nests in good condition are often taken over by new tenants.
Swallows usually stay with the same mate for life. In some species, the male swallow helps incubate and care for the hatchlings. This behavior mainly occurs when swallows are living in colonies, otherwise the female cares for the young. Both the male and the female feed the hatchlings. Older siblings of newly hatched swallows have been observed helping with feedings.
Swallows feed their nestlings by rolling insects into a compact ball and carrying them back to the nest in their throat. A typical barn swallow will bring about four hundred daily meals, consisting of about twenty insects per meal, back to its brood.
These birds are truly useful in controlling the insect population. Providing nesting boxes and adequate housing is a great way to attract swallows to your property.
SWALLOWS AND THE MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY ACT OF 1918
LEGAL STATUS AND PERMIT REQUIREMENTS
All swallows and their nests are fully protected under the "Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918" as migratory insectivorous birds and as such are protected by state and federal regulations. It is illegal for any person to intentionally kill, injure, take, possess, transport, sell, or purchase them or their parts. It is illegal to intentionally destroy the nest, eggs or young of a swallow without a permit. As a result, there are certain activities affecting swallows that are subject to legal restrictions.
The Division of Migratory Birds and Habitat through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers February 15th to October 1st to be the swallow nesting season. Completed nests during this breeding season cannot be touched without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Outside of these dates, the nests can be removed without a permit. During nesting, a permit authorizing nest removal will be issued only if it can be justified by strong, compelling reasons. For example, such justification might include a health or safety hazard posed by a nesting colony situated over a doorway/entrance, near a loading area of a warehouse or a food processing facility, or at an airport if aircraft and maintenance safety are impaired.
If eggs or young are in the nest when a permit is requested, the application will probably be denied. It is best to request the permit during the non-breeding season and well before spring nest construction begins. Past history and problems will be taken into consideration. The permit is issued for one season only. The permit will authorize the permittee or the permittee's employee(s) to use specified methods to remove the nests. The number of nests removed must be reported within 10 days after the permit expires.
For all permit requirements, contact the main office of USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services in your state. In California the address is 3419A Arden Way, Sacramento, CA 95825; phone (916) 979-2675. You will be referred to a district biologist who will assess the problem and make control recommendations. If lethal control is recommended, then a permit application must be completed and sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional office along with a fee.
In areas where a permit is required, the nest removal method will be specified by the permit. In California, old nests or nests under construction may be washed down with water or knocked down with a pole. Swallows are strongly attracted to old nests or to the remnants of deteriorated nests, so all traces of mud should be removed. During nest building, nest removal will require many days because cliff swallows persistently rebuild nests for most of the breeding season. They usually return the following year and the whole process must be repeated.
Exclusion refers to any control method that denies physical access to the nest site area. Exclusion represents a relatively permanent, long-term solution to the problem. In California, a permit is not required for this method if it is done before the birds arrive, during nest building when there are no eggs or young in the nest or after the birds have left for the winter. If swallows have eggs or young in the nest, exclusion may not be used without a permit.
If you have any questions regarding the above information or if you need additional information regarding the legal status or any termination of swallows, their young or their nests please contact John & Deb Kirkpatrick at (530) 888-6912.