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Collaboration builds housing for feathered friends at PEPtBO

By Cheryl Anderson
Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory

Barn Swallows, their feathered cousins and those responsible for keeping their presence in the County, will officially open a new nesting structure at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory next week.

The Barn Swallow is an iconic insectivore known chiefly by its steely blue upper parts and deeply forked tail. Barn Swallows can be seen swooping over farm fields, marshes and grasslands feeding on insects as they fly.

Traditionally Barn Swallows, as their name suggests, have nested in barns and garages throughout their southern Ontario range. Unfortunately, over the past 40 to 50 years, populations of all insectivores, including Barn Swallows, have declined drastically to less than 25 per cent of their pre-1970 levels. There are several reasons for this decline; however, at least part of the responsibility lies with old barns being demolished and garage doors being kept closed limiting access to suitable nest sites.

In an attempt to alleviate these problems, Bird Studies Canada promotes building alternate nesting structures for Barn Swallows. The Bird Observatory area boasts resident Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows and Purple Martins; therefore, this part of the National Wildlife Area is a good place for an alternate nesting structure.

As a result, and with approval from the Canadian Wildlife Service, PEPtBO received a grant from Wildlife Habitat Canada and Nature Canada to build an alternate nesting structure at the Bird Observatory. Further support for building materials came from the Home Depot Belleville store. The structure was built by the woodworking classes at Prince Edward Collegiate and erected by PEPtBO volunteers in June.

The location is an important one. Barn Swallows have traditionally nested close to the location of the new structure in old buildings at the harbour and in the shed at Point Traverse Lighthouse – a short flight over the harbour from the Bird Observatory. Although the structure was erected too late in the season for use this year, we hope that Barn Swallows will be attracted to it next spring when they arrive from their wintering grounds.

On August 21 at 11 am, Councillor Steve Ferguson will officially “open” the Barn Swallow nesting structure. PEPtBO will host a small celebration of this addition to its avian monitoring, educational and research activities. The public is welcome to attend. We can almost guarantee attendance of not only our resident Barn Swallows, but also their cousins Cliff Swallows, Tree Swallows and Purple Martins.


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