Whenever we are feeling sorry for ourselves, because it is cold and raining, think of the hardships suffered by swallows. They are intolerant of extremes in weather-they aren’t just miserable-they die!
In order to survive, they must travel thousands of miles to find warmth and food. From our cold winter, they fly south to below the equator as far as Argentina. Then they must return North to Mexico and the USA to nest.
They arrive here in mid March to build their nest, lay eggs and raise their babies before returning to Argentina with their babies in tow for the life saving warmth. It is a life of hardships!
While here, they must find the right kind of soil, a source of water to make tiny mud beads, which they stick together with their saliva. It takes between 1200 and 2000 tiny mud beads for each nest.All this after finding a food source so they can feed and rest after their exhausting flight.
Finally they mate, then lay 4 to 5 eggs, each parent takes turns incubating,while the other feeds. When the babies hatch in 3 weeks,they again take turns keeping their young ones warm because their babies are born bare skinned with their eyes sealed shut. As soon as pin-feathers develop, both parents leave the nest to find food. Swallow parents share feeding equally. Babies must be fed every 20 minutes from dawn to dusk,for over 12 hours everyday. If one parent dies, only 2 babies survive! In 21 to 25 days, if food had been abundant,the babies are ready to leave the nest. It takes them at least 2 hours of fluttering on the ground with parental encouragement before they get airborne. The parents fly along side their young until they get it right. They return to their nest to rest and sleep there at night.
The parents continue to feed the babies until they learn to self-feed. They feed “on the fly” by scooping insects as they fly. Their manner of feeding is of great benefit to we humans. They are the perfect non-toxic pest control for flies, gnats, mosquitoes and all other insects.
Sadly, many people knock down swallow nests because of their droppings below. Other people malignantly wait until eggs hatch and then bat the nests and the babies to the ground. This is illegal! The fine is $15,000 for destroying any occupied nest belonging to migratory birds.
Swallows are federally protected. Any permit to lethally control these species would need to be issued from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and would only be issued in very extreme cases. Some examples are concerns for aircraft safety from a nesting colony at an airport or potential food contamination from a colony over a loading area at a food-processing center.
In most cases a permit for lethal control will not be issued for swallows nesting on a residence or other buildings and causing aesthetic damage. A permit is not required to remove swallow nests under construction that do not contain an adult, any new eggs or young, or nests abandoned after the breeding season.
If an adult swallow is occupying a half-built nest, or a fully built nest without eggs, then the law protects it.
Many people enjoy swallows nesting on or around their homes. They can be your favorite summer visitors. For those who do not want swallows nesting on their home or nearby structures, there are humane ways to discourage them from doing so before they build their nests. They are as follows:
- Smooth metal or slick smooth surfaces will prevent swallows from adhering their mud nests to the wall. Or purchase Bird Slide, anti-roosting and nesting solution at www.birdslide.com. Paint the area with a glossy latex paint to create a smooth texture on walls where swallow nests are unwanted..
- Another easy and cheap way to prevent Swallows from building their nests in unwanted areas is to spray the surfaces with “PAM”, the non-stick cooking spray. Mud swallows nests will not stick.
- Attach plastic netting to buildings before the birds arrive. It should be taut to reduce flapping in the wind. Mesh size should be about 3/4 in. Leave it up permanently or remove after nesting season.
- Blocking the entrance will prevent swallows from nesting inside buildings. Hang netting or strip doors of vinyl plastic or similar material across the entrance.
The swallows arrive in mid March and leave in September and they are of such great benefit while they are here, with little appreciation.
Swallows are mesmerizing to watch, from their industrious housing endeavors thru their unconditionally dedicated parenting skills.
For more information on swallows or any other wild animal, please call Native Animal Rescue, Santa Cruz county’s only legally licensed wildlife intake facility: 462-0720
Visit our website:www.nativeanimalrescue.org.
Native Animal Rescue