The Bird Diaper- a Solution to the Messy Porch Problem

We would all like to be friends to the birds and enjoy their company. However when a barn swallow builds a nest on your porch you will be tested to the limit by the resultant mess of mud and poop.

We recently had a wonderful nest of four baby barn swallows on our front porch and were debating how to cope with the mess. I solved the poop problem by placing a rectangle of brown paper immediately under the nest with some rocks holding it in place. It turns out that the adults rarely defecate on the porch but the little ones put their rear ends up over the edge of the nest and let fly. Since the mess falls directly down onto the paper below the problem is solved.

When the babies are quite young the adults remove fecal material from the nest. But when older the baby birds themselves defecate over the edge of the nest. This is actually quite a neat evolutionary solution to the issue of how to keep the nest clean. Birds that fouled their own nest must have had more diseases and were selected against. So babies are hatched with the knowledge of how to go to the potty over the side of the nest!

The diaper can be removed and recycled into fertilizer in the garden.

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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