A Tale of Two Swallow Types

by Judy Ranson
(Seattle, WA)

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows
Tree Swallow

Some years ago we built a cedar-sided house in the country. Our contractor told us to wait a few months before staining the siding. Soon after moving into our new home, swallows began building their mud nest under the eaves on our beautiful cedar siding. It created quite a mess all down the side of the house. However, we put off staining the siding until the nests were vacated.

So the following year I got the idea that if I built cedar bird houses and mounted them under the eaves, maybe the swallows would use them and not attach their messy mud nests to the siding. Well, my idea worked like a charm…but not as I expected.

I discovered that there were two kinds of swallows here. Tree swallows will occupy bird houses, and the barn swallows were the ones that constructed the mud nests. So my idea worked because the tree swallows arrived about a week before the barn swallows. The tree swallows quickly laid claim to my bird houses, and chased away the barn swallows. Every year thereafter, the tree swallows arrived first and we never again had mud nests on our siding.

The photos of the Tree and Barn Swallows are courtesy of Dennis Paulson.

Thanks Judy! I was cooking dinner the other night, staring at the lake when I noted the swallows had returned! They build a nest in our boat lift. It is dangerous to go near the nest when the nestlings are in it. Swallows will suddenly appear from everywhere and swoop at us, coming within an inch of our heads.

Thanks for your tip! Susan

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