Would you like to learn more about birds? Tree Swallow nest box projects are wonderful places to watch songbirds as they nest and raise their young. And Tree Swallows are perfect birds for close-up, hands-on learning: they are active, attractive, and super-tolerant of people. Best of all, they live right out in the open so you can really see what they're doing. They will let you into their lives like no other songbird, and will teach you about songbird reproduction in ways no book can.
What is a Tree Swallow nest box project?
It's a place, usually out in a large open field, where several pairs of Tree Swallows nest near one another in a grid of pole-mounted birdhouses.
Within a project grid each box is spaced roughly 100' from other boxes.
Since Tree Swallows defend small territories their boxes can be clustered in one location. They don't need to be spread far apart in bluebird trail fashion.
In fact Tree Swallow projects make enjoyable alternatives to bluebird trails for people in Canada and the United States who want to conserve birds.
If you'd like to create your own Tree Swallow Project we can show you how to:
Pick a great project site.
Make and mount your boxes, and protect them from predators.
Check your nests and keep records of their progress.
Maximize the nesting success of your swallows.
Photo below by Robert Thomas.
At your project you'll be able to witness these songbirds at close range as they:
Compete for nest boxes.
Court and form pairs.
Build nests and mate.
Care for their eggs and young.
Plus, if you want to learn even more:
We invite you to use our Nesting Guide to follow the swallows through each step of their nesting cycle and help you understand what you see.
We'll explore the value of bird banding and show you how to find a licensed bander.
We'll examine the tremendous contribution Tree Swallows have made to ornithological research.
Creating and managing Tree Swallow projects can help you become:
A conscientious and successful wildlife manager.
A skilled field observer, someone who can see, rather than just look.
Able to experience the natural world in new and enriching ways.
More aware of ecological, biological, and behavioral issues faced by all life.
There’s one more reason for offering nest boxes to Tree Swallows: You can assist a species that’s showing signs of difficulty.
It saddens us to mention this but, while Tree Swallows are still abundant birds, their numbers have been falling slowly but steadily for decades.
Although they have recently expanded their breeding range southward, in their heartland in Canada, the Great Lakes States, and New England, Tree Swallow nesting numbers have decreased significantly since 1970.
Tree Swallows appear to be part of a widespread decline of aerial insectivores such as swallows, swifts and nightjars, birds that feed primarily on flying insects.
The graph below shows changes over time of major Canadian bird groups. The trend for aerial insectivores in the United States is similar, though less extreme.
While Tree Swallow populations have not dropped as dramatically as many other aerial insectivores, in 2016 the North American Bird Conservation Initiative changed the species Conservation Concern Score from 8 to 10 in recognition of its deteriorating situation, and shifted their overall assessment of the Tree Swallow’s status from “least concern” to “moderate concern.”
The decline in Tree Swallow population is likely due to a mix of factors, including a reduced supply of flying insects related to agricultural intensification and pesticide use, and loss or degradation of migration and winter habitat. Another possibility is a shortage of suitable nest cavities, and we can do something about this, can’t we.
About this web site:
We have tried to make this site as useful, accurate, and informative as possible, because we want others to create their own Tree Swallow projects, and enjoy and learn from these birds as we have.
The site was written specifically for beginning or novice bird enthusiasts who are motivated to learn more about birds as living, reproducing organisms.However, we suspect experienced birders will learn a thing or two here as well.
This site is also meant to be a resource for teachers and parents searching for ways to help children make real and lasting connections with the natural world.
While there are other ways to pursue these goals, we believe management for and systematic field observation of one highly visible and approachable species offers a comprehensive and natural set of learning experiences, and we also believe that much of what a person learns studying one species can be applied to other birds.
We are convinced that Tree Swallows are the perfect birds for this task, and that nest box projects for Tree Swallows are ideal settings for this type of learning.
Our goal is to constantly improve this web site. Your input can help. Please contact us regarding any questions, opinions, or corrections you have concerning the site's content, or if you simply want to chat about Tree Swallows.
We are extremely grateful to those of you who have already shared your experiences and photographs. You have helped create a more comprehensive and instructive web site, and we look forward to your future contributions.
So if you do want to learn more about birds, we think this web site can help you on your journey of exploration, and remember, if you decide to create a Tree Swallow nest box project of your own we'll be here to help, from start to finish.
Regarding Our Blog:
In order to give you a sense of the trials and tribulations Tree Swallows face we blogged the Salmon Creek Tree Swallow Project's 2012 nesting season from the birds' arrival in western NY in late March to the final nest's fledging in early July.
Since we think this chronicle is both instructive and thought-provoking we're keeping it a permanent part of this web site. The blog has been converted to pdf, with posts presented in sequential order. Click Our Blog to access it.