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Nesting swallows build mud nests that can deface and damage the eaves and walls of residential homes and commercial structures. Insect infected swallow nests are a health hazard that detracts from the pleasing architectural appearance of a structure. If left in place in the eaves of your home, the nest can stain the paint or masonry of the building. When swallows leave the nest, parasites remain. Without living hosts, these parasitic insects may move into the interior of your home seeking a new host.
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Identify the problem. Cliff swallows and barn swallows are slender, small birds that spend their spring and summer in North America. Swallows are territorial and return to the same nesting site year after year. Humans continue to destroy the natural habitat of these migratory birds. Urban home sites have replaced cliffs and abandoned farm structures that were their former home. With natural habitat destroyed, the swallows seek the shelter of overhanging eaves of homes, offices and other commercial structures.
Obey the law. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects swallows and their nests. It is illegal to intentionally take, injure or kill any migratory bird. The law states that it is illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest, eggs or hatchlings of a swallow while it is being constructed or occupied. The Act imposes fines or imprisonment sentences for each nest, egg or bird destroyed.
Act humanely. If swallows have built nests in undesirable locations under the eaves of your roof or patio, work in concert with, rather than against Mother Nature. Leave the nest alone until the swallows have raised their young. To comply with the law, remove swallow nests after the swallows have departed on their migratory journey south.
Wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a protective facemask to remove the nest. The bulk of the nest can be easily chipped off the wall with a hammer and chisel. If the nest is located in spot that is inaccessible with a household ladder, "play it safe" and engage the services of a professional exterminator, equipped with the correct equipment and climbing safety gear.
Remove the remaining mud residue by washing the exterior walls and eaves of your home with a pressure washer. Pressure washers are available for rent or purchase from landscape contractors, equipment rental services and local home and garden centers. Allow the surface to dry. Touch up damaged paint as required.
Prevent the swallows from returning to build again in the same location. Install an owl or hawk decoy, wiring or slant board to block the nesting site.
Enjoy watching the birds. Swallows are fascinating to observe. Artificial swallow nests, boxes or platforms provide an inviting spot for the birds to build their nests. Place the nests against the walls of sheds or out buildings. Plans for nests can be purchased online or you can purchase nests or shelves from home and garden supply stores. Place a heavy layer of newspaper below the nest to catch droppings. When the newspaper is saturated, simply roll the paper up and add to the compost pile. The droppings are rich in nutrients that benefit garden soil.