Barns for Barn Swallows

Imagine if you were a barn swallow, seems like it would be pretty amazing. You would have a stylish forked tail, incredible flying and singing abilities AND you’d be beautifully coloured with blue and red feathers! However, don’t let the glamorous image of barn swallow life fool you; these birds have fallen on tough times. Barn swallows commonly make their nests in structures like old wooden barns, as well as under old bridges or in boathouses. The problem is, barns are being torn down, leaving this songbird with far fewer places to raise their young.

barn swallow chicks

Barn swallow chicks

There used to be lots of small wooden barns all over the countryside on family farms, but this type of land use is disappearing as these older barns with beams for nest building are getting knocked down. Today there are fewer barns because modern farms are bigger and don’t need as many small wooden structures. New barns are also often built out of metal, which heats up in the summer, making it an uncomfortable and unsuitable place for barn swallows to nest because metal barns get too warm inside.

Losing nesting platforms has a big impact on barn swallow families. In Ontario, populations decreased 65 percent between 1966 and 2009. Last year, the barn swallow was listed in Canada as ‘threatened’, meaning their populations are so low, they may become endangered if action isn’t taken to help them. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is busy looking at barn swallow populations and planning how we can best protect them. MNR scientists put all the barn swallow conservation research into a “Recovery Strategy” for this species. From this ‘how to save a barn swallow’ instruction manual, we can tell that nesting habitat loss is a huge problem, so to help protect these barn swallows we’ve got to find them some traditional barns!

barn swallow nest barn

Barn swallow nesting in a wooden barn

Cue the Bird Saving Rangers

Earth Rangers jumped into action last September and so far over 6,600 kids have signed up to protect the barn swallow! Your donations are going to help the Nature Conservancy of Canada restore and monitor barns for the birds to use as nesting sites.

covey_hill_barns_restore

Barns to be restored, Covey Hill Quebec

We are restoring two old barns at Covey Hill and one old barn on an island at Île de Grace, Quebec. We hope they will be completed in time for barn swallow nesting this summer (May to July). In the past these barns had nesting barn swallows, so improving the condition of the buildings should attract even more birds to the area! The barns will be made ‘barn swallow friendly’ by adding materials to strengthen the barns so they don’t collapse. Repairing wooden roof beams will make perfect and sheltered spots for nests. Since barn swallows often return to the same place to nest each year, making long-term improvements to barns used by barn swallows is even more helpful for these birds. We are also demolishing one abandoned barn at Covey Hill that is so rundown it is no longer suitable or safe as nesting habitat. We will be using as much of the material from the demolished barn as possible to help restore the other two barns at this site. The land around the barns will also be kept quiet during the breeding season by removing active farming equipment in the buildings.

Keep an Eye on Those Birds

barn swallow tailOnce the restoration work is complete scientists will monitor the area, counting active nests and monitoring barn swallow populations now that they have more places to nest. We are excited about the potential impact these new barns will have for this beautiful threatened songbird! Other birds that use human-made buildings for nesting, like the European barn owl, were shown to like areas where more barns were made available for them. We can’t celebrate a barn swallow comeback just yet, but this conservation work to create more nesting sites is a huge step toward helping save this incredible species.

To acknowledge all the hard work Earth Rangers kids are doing to campaign for the barn swallow, a sign will be posted outside of the restored barns telling everyone how we’re Bringing Back the Wild by helping to give nesting sites to songbirds!

If you were a barn swallow what colour barn would you pick to nest in? Post your suggestions below and we’ll pass your ideas along to the barn recovery team at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Generously Supported By

Holcim

A Conservation Project With

Nature Conservancy of Canada

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44 Comments

  1. 89901pac says:

    That’s so sad.

    [Reply]

  2. MemoJ27 says:

    There so pretty

    [Reply]

  3. dotty11 says:

    MORE PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BREAK DOWN ABANDONED BARNS BEACAUSE MOST BARN SWALLOWS LIVE THERE

    [Reply]

    espons Reply:

    I AGREE

    [Reply]

  4. espons says:

    this is so not fair how would you like it if someone tare own your house

    [Reply]

  5. shyannlovesbees says:

    aaaaa so cute

    [Reply]

  6. VA1030 says:

    I want to learn more about them

    [Reply]


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