The Remarkable Nest of Barn Swallows



After spending years unsuccessfully trying to attract barn swallows to various structures placed up under roof overhangs, a swallow recently built a nest on our front porch. In the process it made a big mess of mud everywhere but we are happy to encourage this female to raise a family.

The nest of barn swallows is built of pellets of mud with some embedded grasses. You can see in one photo how the bird attempted to stick the nest on a number of locations before settling on one successful site. This species breeds throughout most of N America.

The major bane of swallow nests seems to be climbing predators, especially rat snakes which can reach almost any location. Thus barn swallows seem most particular in that they build in the most inaccessible areas. This nest does not fit that criterion except that the closeness to humans may inhibit snake predation. Yet I found a large rat snake in a bush 10 feet from this the area of this nest recently. So luck and timing may determine the success of a nest site.

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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