Return of the Swallows

Peter McNish

The Swallow Bird & Natural Phenomenon 

Every year, a natural phenomenon heralds the arrival of British summertime- swallows return to the country in their thousands, and become a familiar sight in our skies throughout the warmer months before migrating back south. They are also a welcome visitor because they feed largely on small insects, helping us to keep unwanted pests away while we’re out enjoying the sunshine. However, recent years have seen a substantial decline in the number of migratory swallows. One recent estimate suggests that as many as 50% of swallows die during their migration back north. Clearly this is a big problem, but luckily, we can all do our bit to try and help this beloved British bird get back on its collective feet.

Making Your Garden Swallow-Friendly

Swallows Nest

Swallows often make their nests in disused buildings such as barns and other outbuildings, instead of in trees like many other birds. If they don’t have access to these areas, then often they will simply give up trying to make a nest at all, further threatening their overall population. If you live out in the countryside, you can do your bit by ensuring that such buildings aren’t kept boarded up, and are instead able to offer some well-needed refuge to our feathered friends.

What do Swallows Eat?

For those who actually want to get up close and personal with swallows, this can be a particularly tricky business. As mentioned above, their diet largely consists of insects, and can devour many hundreds of them a day. While this is great for keeping your garden clear, it also makes it difficult to attract swallows in the first place, since most birdfeed is targeted towards omnivorous birds. Patience is key, but with enough time and effort, you should be able to attract some swallows to your garden by leaving out mealworms for them to eat. You likely won’t see instant results, but if you keep at it, there’s a good chance that the odd family of swallows will start to stop by over the summer.

Other ways that you can help make your garden more swallow-friendly include abstaining from spraying insecticides, to provide them with a strong natural food source that they love. Since swallows typically drink from natural bodies of water such as rivers, a bird bath fountain or bubbler is another way of attracting them to your garden, since this will replicate those natural conditions. Finally, you can help ensure that swallows have plenty of potential nesting sites in your area by putting up a few birdhouses, which should help convince them to become a more permanent visitor to your garden. Swallows might be declining, but if we all do our bit and make our gardens more swallow-friendly, we can ensure that this much-loved summer visitor can continue to visit our country for many more years to come.



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