Hooray! The swallows are returning! Many people think of swallows only as birds that “mess” their buildings for about six weeks of the year. People may not realize that swallows are remarkable migratory birds, flying 14,000 miles per year. Their preferred diet is disease-carrying mosquitoes, so they do us a great service!
It is against federal and state law, under protection of the Migratory Bird Act, to disturb or destroy a swallow’s nest once a swallow has occupied the nest, eggs or not.
The only time it is legal to discourage swallows is when they first arrive and begin to build. Violations are punishable by very large fines. If you see someone disturbing or destroying a swallow’s nest, please report the offense to Fish and Wildlife immediately.
Ledges can be built so that nestlings won’t make such a mess with their droppings. I used to attach large sheets of cardboard to the walls and decking, and remove the cardboard when the nestlings fledged.
I ask those of you who view swallows as messy and inconvenient to challenge your thinking and change your views and tactics. If you don’t want swallows, don’t let them build in the first place. Once the nests are in place, please wait until late September to remove them.
Swallow populations are declining due to more construction and less habitat for them. In earlier times, it was considered great luck to have swallows’ nests above or near to your front door. I hope that we will again view these birds for the aerodynamic wonders and beneficials that they are.