Introduction to the Nesting Guide:
  • Having your own Tree Swallow nest box project gives you an unparalleled
    opportunity to witness the nesting cycle of free-living songbirds up close, an
    opportunity you won't want to miss.  
  • You'll find your swallows are superb teachers: they really let you see what's
    happening.  Your observations and experiences with them will help you
    understand songbirds in general, and to help structure your learning we've
    designed the Nesting Guide.  Photo below by Dr. Joel Eade of Kentucky.

  • The reproductive cycles of songbirds progress through a regular succession of
    stages, each with its own set of significant events, activities, and pressures.  
    The details differ by species, but the general stages and issues apply to all.  
  • The Nesting Guide presents a series of topics, listed at left, that follow the
    sequence of stages in the Tree Swallow nesting cycle.  Each topic addresses a
    specific stage or issue of songbird reproduction, or investigates important
    aspects of songbird behavior, biology, ecology, or management.
  • The topics are intended to complement and reinforce what you learn in the
    field.  They are not meant to replace your own observations, which are the real
    key to understanding the swallows and their world.  
  • We hope you'll try to make watches each time you visit your project because, as
    the proverb says:

  • Making field watches isn't hard.  Just bring along an old lawn chair, and relax
    and observe for ten or fifteen minutes at several boxes in succession.  Take
    notes or use a behavior check list if you want, and be sure to think about what
    you see and speculate about causes.  And of course make a round of box
    checks before you leave.
  • We suggest you refer to the particular guide topics that correspond to the
    current nesting stage at your project, both before project visits as preparation
    for field watches, and again afterward as you reflect on what you've seen.  
  • Of course the Nesting Guide can't prepare you for everything.  There's always
    the chance you'll witness something totally unexpected, such as the swallow
    below with an extremely rare genetic mutation in its pigment producing system.
    Photo below by Mark Deprez of New York.

  • We think the Nesting Guide can be a valuable learning tool in and of itself,
    and we've tried to be thorough and thought-provoking, but you may want to
    supplement the guide with other sources.
  • If you want a comprehensive reference, consider buying a companion book
    such as "The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior," or better yet, Cornell Lab
    of Ornithology's "Handbook of Bird Biology."  
  • If you have a strong interest in anatomy and physiology of birds, "Manual of
    Ornithology" by Proctor and Lynch, combines excellent text with outstanding
  • If you want a really comprehensive learning experience, check out the Lab of
    Ornithology's Home Study Course in Bird Biology.  It's challenging, but it
    could make a great complement to your project experiences.  Photo below by
    Michelle Lamberson of British Columbia.

The Nesting Guide
Learn About Birds at Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects
"Hearing about something a hundred times
is not as good as seeing it once."