Sunday, April 20, 2008

Our barn swallows are back

Our barn swallows are back as of this morning. The swallows interact with us a good deal, mostly telling us in no uncertain terms that they want the barn doors opened each morning. There are holes with perches that they can use, but they would rather fly in, as they have lots of mouths to feed.

Later, when the chicks are about to fledge whenever we walk by or go into the barn, we trigger loud alarm calls and get buzzed. I've felt a whoosh of air many a time as a swallow swoops by my ear.

Having the swallows in residence means we have a flock of summer pets with entertainment value. We are fond of them, but it seems there are people who hate these birds. A blogger south of the border, who describes himself as a country boy (not a cowboy or a farmer or a hayseed or a redneck, though he admits to being bit of all those), hates barn swallows. At the bottom of his list of spring things to do, there is this:
Prepare for annual battle with barn swallows by stocking up on 12-gauge shells (I've tried scarecrows, plastic snakes, sonic barriers, and cussing... and I'm finished screwing around with these birds, it is time for them to die).
Yes, it's true that these birds do make a mess in the barn with their droppings, but shooting them????

Fortunately, our ride-on lawn mower has a sun-shade which keeps the droppings off the seat. Late in the summer when the birds are gone, we clean the floor with a power washer.

Aside from that, the swallows aren't a big problem. They're just fellow residents of our little eco-system, a 10-acre spot with lots of food and water, and we're happy to share. They are voracious insectivores, swooping and diving around the lawn mower as it scares up the insects. Apparently, barn swallows are quite effective at reducing insect pest populations - definitely my kind of bird.

(For more information about barn swallows, see this site by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.)
© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener


  1. I really enjoy barn swallows and often wish we had some here to keep down the mosquito populations.

  2. Wonderful Yvonne!!! I'll be looking for mine today!!! I'll keep my garage door shut but they are more than welcome to nest under my porch if the like!

  3. How exciting! I think they are wonderful...but then I don't have any to clean up after...did you illustrate the picture of the swallows? Outstanding!

  4. Thanks for visiting Amy, Eve and Jean Ann. No, I only photograph so the image isn't by me.

  5. Tonight is the first time I have seen the swallows around. At first I thought they were using me for target practice but I realized they must have a nest nearby. I was out in the middle of my yard however and they kept doing close flybys. So I wondered if the lawn mower was tossing up insects and they were getting those. I am delighted they are here but it is a little disconcerning to be target practice.

  6. Hi Susan: They do get very protective around the time that their babies are hatching, and particularly so when they're ready to leave the nest. That's when they do those disconcerting fly-bys. And, yes, they do go after the insects scared up by the lawn mower.


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-Yvonne, aka Country Gardener