The Barn Swallow a Potential
Tenant of Shed Owners
The Barn Swallow is a graceful bird with a deeply forked tail that darts high and low over the ground in pursuit of flying insects. Swallows eat and drink and do most everything else on the wing, and are very precise fliers. They are ravenous insect eaters, and Barn Swallow’s preferred fare is flies, though they will pick off anything of a similar size with wings. They fly in large groups and also nest in colonies, you will almost never see them flying about alone.
Barn Swallows nest throughout North America excluding the extreme southwestern portion of the United States and southern Florida. If your property has some open space for swallows to forage and a source of mud for them to build their nests, it is likely that the structures on your property could be used for nesting by Barn Swallows!
Though it historically nested in caves, this swallow now nests nearly exclusively in the eaves of man made structures. Barn Swallows will build their cup-shaped mud nests anywhere they can access, including under exterior overhangs or even inside a structure that has open windows. Both the male and female build the nest, each bringing pellets of mud mixed with grass or other vegetation. After the nest cup is constructed, the birds will line it with soft grass and feathers before laying 3-7 eggs in it.
Barn Swallows will reuse old nests each year, so if you’d like to encourage them to come back, you might consider leaving the old nests up during the fall and winter. Some people prefer taking all the old nests down, because they can become soiled with parasites and mites, but birds will generally avoid using any old nests with high numbers of parasites regardless. Birds will return from their wintering grounds in the southern portions of Mexico and South America, add new mud and lining to the old nests, and be ready to lay their eggs.
Something you can do to encourage nesting of Barn Swallows is to provide a source of mud on your property while the birds are building their nests in the spring. If you are successful in attracting Barn Swallows to nest on your shed or barn, be sure to keep your doors and windows closed unless you want them to build inside. Or, if you’d like them inside the structure, be sure to leave the doors and windows open throughout the nesting season so the birds can feed their young!
If you do have Barn Swallows taking up residence on your property, avoid leaving twine, fishing line, or the like around in the spring. Birds may use it to strengthen their nests during building, and nestlings have become trapped by getting tangled in the unnaturally strong filaments embedded in hardened mud. You won’t have much luck attracting Barn Swallows using bird feeders!, but they will take ground-up eggshells from platforms. It is believed that these eggshells help the bird to grind up insect food to aid in digestion.
Barn Swallows will reduce the activity of many flying insect pests in your yard, and become a source of entertainment for you and your family. Their aerial acrobatics are astounding. Happy Birding!
About the Author:
I am an ornithologist with a Master’s degree and specialize in restoration treatments effect on resident and migrant songbirds. I have conducted a wide variety of research projects ranging from migration monitoring to spot-mapping breeding songbirds. As a writer for Your Bird Oasis, a retailer of backyard birding supplies and an essential resource for burgeoning and expert birders alike, I have the exciting opportunity to share my knowledge of and passion for birds with many online communities.