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Attracting Barn Swallows To Your Property

| 2/28/2018 1:29:00 PM

BARS nestlings 

Did you ever pause on a summer day to admire the swallows doing aerial gymnastics overhead? Those swallows are designed to maneuver incredibly quickly while flying at speeds up to 40 miles/hour. Swallows are aerial insectivores and catch 99% of their diet while diving, banking hard, and wheeling through the air. Fortunately for us, their favourite food is the larger insects that pester us: mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and flies. A single swallow eats approx. 60 insects an hour, and from a utilitarian perspective, swallows make great neighbors.

The traditional farm offered ideal habitat for swallows. The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) was a common summer resident on the farm, which offered these birds outbuildings in which to build their nests, fields and ponds for foraging, and livestock to attract their insect prey. In exchange for a safe location to raise their broods, the swallows feasted on the insects that pestered the farmer, his crops, and his animals. Coincidentally, the North American population of barn swallows has dropped significantly since the mid-1980s, which is around the time that the conversion from family farms to mega farms began to level out. While the causes for the decline in barn swallow populations are not fully understood, a loss of nesting and foraging habitat is suspected to play a substantial role

If you are lucky enough to have barn swallows on your property - congratulations! If you do not, but wish you did, you can take steps to improve the likelihood of hosting these birds. Either way, you could have more swallows by looking at your property from their perspective and enhancing the features that attract them. The payoff for you will be less insects to pester you and your family, as well as the knowledge that you are taking steps to help a beautiful and valuable species.

Landscapes That Attract Barn Swallows

Barn swallows do not like forested or urbanized areas because they need open air space to forage. Instead, the swallows choose grasslands, fields, marshes, and bodies of water. What follows is a list of some basic habitat requirements for swallows.

Areas of open grass: swallows need it for foraging and if an expanse of grass is mown less frequently, then more insects will inhabit it and provide more food for the swallows. Hay fields are excellent places for swallow to forage.   

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