Did you know that Barn Swallows once nested in caves across North America but now rely heavily on barns and farmland for nesting?1

Barn Swallows are small, low-flying birds. In flight, they can be identified by their deeply forked tail and tawny underbelly, this is also the best opportunity to see the white spots on their tail! Barn Swallows can also be identified by their shining blue back that extends from their head, all the way to their tail. They also have a rusty brown chin and forehead, this is a great way to tell a Barn Swallow apart from their close and more abundant relative the Tree Sparrow which has a white underbelly and chin. 

Barn Swallow on left, Tree Swallow on right

Barn Swallows are great pest deterrents and are often seen flying low above fields on the hunt for flying insects. In fact, Barn Swallows only eat flying insects, and rarely travel beyond 500 meters from their nesting sites to collect food. They are even said to eat hundreds of insects each day!2 Since these birds rely heavily on man-made structures to create nests, farmland and farm owners are vital to their survival.

There are a number of ways you can improve your own property for these birds including, building nesting platforms with natural woods suitable for nest building. As bank barns are replaced with metal barns that may be better suited to modern agricultural practices, nesting options for Barn Swallows have become sparse. Nesting structures offer a great alternative to wooden barns and sheds. Check out the photo below to see how one of the farms we permanently protect built a Barn Swallow nesting structure to enhance the wildlife habitat on their farm!

Barn Swallow nesting structure on Robson Property

Barn Swallows are provincially listed as threatened, meaning they are at risk of becoming endangered if we don’t take the proper precautions to maintain their habitats. The reasons for decreasing populations of Barn Swallows is not quite understood, however the removal of traditional barns made from rough wood rather than metal are thought to be contributing factors3. Additionally, the loss of the farmland where Barn Swallows are able to forage for insects is also a factor that is speculated to be impacting their survival.3 

Fortunately, we are proud to say this species is commonly seen on the farms we permanently protect with our farmland easement agreements. To learn more about our easement agreements, click here! When farmland is permanently protected, so is vital habitat for species at risk.


References

  1. CornellLab, (2019). All About Birds Barn Swallow. Retrieved from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/overview                                          
  2. Nature Canada, (2019). Barn Swallow Beneficial Practice Guide for Ontario Rural Residents. Retrieved from https://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Barn-Swallow-Final-BMP.pdf
  3. Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, (2020). Species at Risk. Barn Swallow.  Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/barn-swallow