And What You Can Do to Deter Them
by Alex A. Kecskes
Swallows are sleek, slender birds typically found in North America. They are very territorial, returning to the same nesting site in the spring and summer. Once confined to cliffs, swallows have become a growing nuisance in suburban areas. Instead of attaching their nests to cliffs, many prefer man-made sites like the wood beams and stucco of modern houses. They often build their characteristic mud nests in the outer walls and eaves of homes. (One home was "decorated" with at least 32 swallow abodes constructed of hardened mud.) Left on your home long enough, swallow nests will leave an unsightly stain.
A colony of birds will also leave a trail of droppings down the sides of your home and the ground below. Property owners spend time and money cleaning up the mess and concern over the slip-and-fall hazards from swallow droppings. The bacteria, fungal agents and parasites found in swallow droppings and nests can carry hosts with serious diseases, including histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis, toxoplasmosis and more.
Worse yet, swallow mud nests are often infested with insects. The insects tend to move into your home to find new hosts. Even when swallows leave, their vacant nests simply attract new birds.
Homeowners should be rightly concerned about swallows nesting on their homes, but there are limitations to what one can do. You see, swallows and their nests are fully protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take any migratory bird. It is also illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest, eggs, or young of a swallow while it is being built or in use. The Act allows fines or prison sentences for every bird, egg or nest destroyed.
Fortunately, there are some swallow deterrents one can use that are both effective and humane.
An effective type of swallow bird netting one can rely on to safely exclude swallows is Ultra Net. This low-profile netting is an ideal way to prevent birds from getting under eaves, barns, balconies, garages, sheds and other areas around your home. The netting is a lightweight plastic mesh made of durable, U.V. protected polypropylene. It comes in three different mesh sizes: 3/4”, 1/2”, and 1/4” and a variety of cuts to match the area being treated.
Ultra Netting is easy to work with and can be readily secured with twine, zip ties, or hog rings. For vegetable gardens, wrap individual plants or suspend netting around the entire garden area for protection. Ultra netting is meant for temporary use and hangs easily using the clips provided by the manufacturer. You can also just use a staple gun to secure the netting around any perimeter.
Another effective tool is Bird Slope. This is a humane way to block small and large birds from landing or nesting on open ledges. These slippery PVC panels are ideal for use on any ledge that meets at a 90 degree angle. They can also be used on eaves. As an anti-perching, anti-roosting deterrent, bird slopes have proven to be effective against all types of birds, including swallows. Each bird slope section is 2 feet long, and you get 4 feet per box. The specially fabricated panels are made of U.V. protected PVC to make them sun and weather resistant.
Installation is a snap, since there are a variety of bird slope accessories available to accommodate different areas. For example, there's a "snap on" extender, so you can easily adapt it to wider ledges. And special “end caps” are also available to keep swallows from getting behind the slope. The product comes in two colors (stone and grey) to match your home's décor.
There are also nearly invisible physical deterrents such as the No Nasty Nest which feature a unique design for deterring swallows from nesting on your home. No Nasty Nest is easy to install and will deter swallows by creating a barrier of plastic twine that is uncomfortable for the birds to fly through. By placing it under your eaves, it makes your house an undesirable location for swallows to build their nest.
Also effective in getting rid of swallows are Sonic Bird Deterrents. These devices broadcast distress and predator calls every few minutes to scare swallows from open spaces like backyards, gardens, courtyards, patios, and pool areas. Some devices come with a built-in speaker that will cover up to an acre of land. The best sonic devices are rugged and weatherproof and can be programmed to turn on/off at night.
Working with ornithologists at a major university, the Bird Chase Super Sonic deterrent was developed to offer the latest technology in pest bird deterrents. Unlike other bird sonic devices that play high-pitched noises that can bother pets and animals, this device cycles through a series of recorded bird calls and is safe to use around pets.