Pet Terrain has been home to the American Cliff Swallow for over 10 years. We noticed the mud stains on the eaves of our homes stucco when we moved in, but I wasn’t sure what it was until the following spring.
Cliff Swallows will chose the high points of a home’s eaves to build their multiple mud nests. For our house that meant over every doorway and window. I didn’t think the bird poop and mud splatter on my windows and walkways into the house, not to mention the stains left behind, would get out of hand.
At first I thought, how cool. We love wildlife and always look for ways to help protect their natural habitat/home. It’s truly amazing how these little birds can crank-out a nest in just a few days.
By the second year I started getting worried. I thought, wow there’s a lot more nests this year. I researched the wildlife laws and found that you cannot remove the nests once they’re completed. That made sense to me but I wasn’t ready to destroy all their hard work.
As my past experiences began to build, it appeared to me that the amount of mud nests would have kept growing until our entire house was covered. By the third year I was ready to do some managing.
I started noticing what I call marking territory. In the previous year I would see random placement of pieces of mud on the stucco, then the next year there would be a nest there. There was a huge numbers of markings from the previous year.
So, I waited the several months until they vacated and then proceeded to hose down the nests. I was no longer a fan of these messy guys, but still felt guilty! I learned it’s best to take a pole to knock down the majority of the nest, then use a hose…less mud running down the stucco.
By the next year I swore I would hose them off before they finished. That was a hilarious battle…hauling a ladder and hose around the perimeter of my house trying to stop the invasion. They weren’t afraid of me or my constant spray of water and continued building.
Next I thought, where are they getting all the mud? I spotted them going to our next door neighbor’s yard where there was a leaking lawn sprinkler. Once our neighbors fixed the leak and it slowed them down only slightly. They must have found another source further away…darn!
Did you know that each year the new offspring from the previous year return along with the adults? It has taken us several years to keep the nests at a manageable level. I’m okay with 10 or so nests, but not 50 or more!
The American Cliff Swallow averages 5 inches long with a tiny pointed bill. The adult cliff swallow has an iridescent blue back and crown, brown wings and tail, and buff rump. The nape, forehead and underside is white, with a red face. Their tail has a square-shaped end when in flight.
Juvenile cliff swallows are mostly brown on top and whitish below, with still a buff rump, but lacking the red face until maturity.
The closely related Cave Swallow differs in color, with a cinnamon rump and forehead and their tail has elongated outer or corner feathers.
I have seen their nests on top of beams in barns and out buildings. They use a mix of mud and straw, hay or grass in their nest-building.
I should have read Wikipedia before this all started “American cliff swallows breed in large colonies.” No kidding…but the sad part is I got worried again this year, but for a different reason.
Our Swallows were late. They usually arrive in the middle of March, but I just saw our first ones today and that’s what prompted me to write this post. It’s a love/hate relationship that would sadden me if it ended.