Swallow repellents, deterrents,
Why Control Cliff Swallows or Barn Swallows?
pyrrhonota, Hirundo rustica
These slender, sleek birds are well known for their long
migration and nesting habits. Cliff and barn swallows spend their
winters in South America and summers in North America. They arrive
around March in the southern part of the country, reaching the
northern states in April.
They are very territorial and
will always come back to the same nesting site. These swallows have
made a very successful switch from cliffs and caves to man made
structures for placement of their mud pellet nests. Increased insect
populations from modern agriculture and shelter created by man made
structures are two reasons given for this transition.
Unfortunately, this success has often been at the expense of a
frustrated homeowner. The swallow now faces strong competition from
the introduced house sparrow for food and shelter. This may be why
their numbers appear to be dwindling. Swallows are a protected
species and their arrival is a sign of spring for many.
4-6 yrs wild
to 12 yrs captivity
lots of insects
adjacent to open
fields & water
WARNING NOTICE: All swallows enjoy special protection under the law. You can not
disturb them once the nest is completely built and they lay their eggs in the nest.
Swallows have about 8 members of the Hirundinidae Family living in
the North American Region. Of the 8, only 2 regularly build mud nests
attached to buildings, and other structures. The Cliff Swallow (Hirundo
pyrrhonota) and the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) are most often in
conflict with humans the most. Cliff swallows will live in colonies
of up to several hundred pairs. Barn swallows usually nest as a
single pair or a few pairs in one structure. "The cliff swallow, 5
to 6 inches in length, is the only squared-tailed swallow in most of
North America." It has a "pale, orange-brown rump, white forehead,
dark, rust colored throat, and steel-blue crown and back.
Four basic conditions are found near most cliff and barn swallow nest sites: (1)
an open habitat for foraging, (2) a suitable surface for nest attachment beneath
an overhang or ledge, (3) a supply of mud of the proper consistency for nest
building, and (4) a body of fresh water for drinking."
Both cliff and barn swallows migrate to South America for the winter. They will
begin their return north in late winter and early spring. Swallows travel during
the day and catch flying insects along the way. The migratory route of a swallow
will always have an abundant level of flying insects. Swallows have a tendency
to return to the same nest year after year, under suitable conditions.
Most swallow nests are inhabited by hematophagous
(bloodsucking) insects and mites. Swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius), most
common in cliff swallow nests, can spread rapidly from nest to nest. Swallow bugs reduce nestling growth rates and cause up to half of all
nestling deaths." These bugs are able to survive in unoccupied nest for up
to 3 years. When swallows are picking out a nest, they will asses which
nesting sites have a large infestation of swallow bugs and they will avoid
nesting their there.
Cliff swallow nests are gourd-shaped, enclosed structures with an
entrance tunnel that opens downward. The mud pellets used by the swallows
consist of sand, silt, and clay. The inside is lined with grass, hair, and
feathers. "The nest is cemented with mud under the eave or overhang of a
building, bridge, or other vertical surface."
Barn swallow nests are cup-shaped. The mud pellets "contain coarse
organic matter such as grass stems, horse hairs, and feathers. The nest cup is
profusely lined with grasses and feathers. Both male and female swallows help
build the nest. They have to take their time, allowing the mud to dry and
harden. Depending on the climate, nest construction could take up to 2 weeks. "A
typical cliff swallow's nest contains about 900 - 1400 mud pellets.
Swallows lay their eggs during early spring. Male and female swallows help
incubate the eggs. Incubation usually occurs before the last egg is laid.
"Whitewash on the ground below the nest or on the rim of the nest entrance is a
sign of newly hatched nestlings inside the nest. Juvenile swallows will leave
the nest approximately 24 days after hatching. After leaving the nest, swallows
can stay near the nest, but normally they will start migrating south around late
Cliff swallows nest in
colonies and often live in close association with humans." Because of cliff
swallows nature to build clustered mud nests, they can do a lot of damage to a
structure aesthetically. They also cause a health hazard around humans because
of the heavy infestation of swallow bugs, mites, and ticks. Even though barn
swallows live in smaller numbers, they cause the same amount of damage.
In the United States, all swallows are classified as migratory insectivorous
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918." All states offer swallows the same
protection. One must obtain permission from local, state, and federal officials
to treat for swallows. As a general rule, if eggs or nestlings are present in a
nest, a permit authorizing nest removal must be obtained. A permit for swallow
nest removal can only be issued if very compelling reasons exist.
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