Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to get rid of Barn Swallow angst.

While the rest of Richmond was crowding into Steveston for the Salmon Festival, we went the other way, to a playground. There was absolutely no competition for the monkey bars.

While the kids clambered around, with mom as spotter, I wandered into the big wide open, the unused soccer field. But soon I had friends, as I knew I would. The Barn Swallows wait for you to get halfway across, then suddenly you are the centre of attention.

I feel like a ship, with dolphins riding my bow-wave. Except it’s more like circling than riding.

I'm King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building, but without Fay Wray and the machine guns. I’m almost giggling, this is so much fun.

I can tell where in North America Barn Swallows are breeding, because this blog regularly receives hits from people Googling how to get rid of them. (Among other places, they are currently breeding -- and pooping on someone’s porch-- in Topeka.)

I say, forget the mess, and get out to your nearest soccer field, pasture, meadow or cricket pitch (there are also Barn Swallows in England, I’m pretty sure), and let yourself be swarmed by these bug-eating wonders.

It will bury the needle on your happy meter.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand some people. I would be delighted to have barn swallows living even closer to me. Would those folks prefer to have extra mosquitoes instead? I'm happy to trade!

Hugh said...

There's so much to like. They always sound happy. Even when they're angry, when you walk close to their nests, they sound sort of happy.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

So that's how you get close to them! I love these swallows, and keep trying for a photo, but they're always too far, too fast.

Hugh said...


It's a kick even without a camera. As for photos, I could never get a half-decent picture with the old Olympus. The new Canon is fast enough to give a shot, although it's still a guessing game. Click click click. A very fun game.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

I got rid of my old Kodak, and now use a Canon. Laurie spent twice as much on a new Olympus: he has the same complaint as you did. It hems and haws until the bird or whatever has come and gone.

But you're right. Camera or no camera, it's fun to watch the birds.

chey said...

I don't understand why they wouldn't be liked either.I like your style Hugh! Thanks for sharing.

tully monster said...

No barn swallow angst here. I understand some people are concerned about damage to structures, and possibly parasites. However, I didn't find your blog googling for information on getting rid of them--I came looking for information on the swallow life cycle. We've had a pair nesting against our front porch overhang for the last few years, and the little ones just fledged last week. The parents usually take off when the offspring leave...but this year, they seemed to be settling in for another brood.

Alas, this wasn't the case. Sadly, tonight I found one of them (the male, I think) lying on the front porch, dead, I hope, of age-related causes. Now I'm just hoping that someone will come back and inhabit the nest next year--maybe the female with a new partner, maybe one of the offspring.

In our household, the day they fledge is a momentous occasion. We go out with a camera and take home movies. All day long the little ones fly loop-de-loops in the driveway, trying out their new wings, and then in the evening they're sitting up on the roof waiting for their parents to swoop in with bugs.

Hugh said...


Thanks for your lovely note. I expect that the configuration of your porch will continue to attract them, kin or otherwise.

That your household celebrates the fledging of barn swallows -- you guys rock.

tully monster said...

Hey, if you don't mind, I'm sticking around--your blog is about all my favorite things! Birds (including barn swallows, of course), lizards, salamanders, interesting insects and other fine critters.

My favorite swallow-swarming spot: I live in central Illinois, and in late spring, in the early evenings, I like to sit on a bridge over the Kaskaskia--out in the cornfields, close to its headwaters, where it's not much more than a glorified irrigation ditch--and watch the swallows fly all around me. (There are also pheasant pairs out for an evening stroll to watch.)

Anonymous said...

Last summer was our first year having barn swallows. We bought a house that has a carport and they nested in it. Me & my kids were so excited! That is until the babies were born and the parents became very aggresive to us. The parents had not left any messes until the babies were born then it was absolutely gross. With 4 young children I just didn't want it anymore. We loved it in th beginning but the birds started swoopping at our heads every time we went out the door. It actually scared my kids. And I have to disagree that they always sound happy. These sound really ticked off. There are 3 of them here and they have started nesting again this year. We are trying everything to get rid of them. If they were not in our carport I would be fine with them but for those of you who wish you had them, they aren't always wonderful. I thoguht that in the beginning but no more. Which is sad because we loved watching them nest & the babies come.

Anonymous said...

Same here. We thought it was the coolest thing to have barn swallows nesting under the eaves of our front porch right outside a window that allowed us to watch the whole life cycle. We even happily dealt with the dive-bombing and bird poo for a while.

Well, that is until we discovered that swallows can also carry nasty bird mites (poor birds) that use the nest as their breeding ground. Once the fledglings are coming and going, tens of thousands of these tiny parasites start migrating from the nest, trying to find warm bodies to bite... including humans. They are fast and smaller than a pinhead, but once they bite you'd swear they were much bigger. And the itch... incredible! Ugh. No nests next year.

Hugh said...


I would draw the line there too, especially since parasitic arthropods can carry nasty viruses. I've not seen mites in or emanating from the nests here, but were it an issue, I would dissuade swallows from nesting close at hand. Thanks for the interesting input.