Swallows Nest on Eagle Owl's Head

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A proud swallow parent and her nestlings.

Image: Barry Gomer.

Every spring, a group of swallows complete a 6,000-mile migratory journey from South Africa, where they spend the winter, so they can nest in Vivien Reynolds' barn, located in South Hams, Devon, UK. Shortly after arriving each April, the birds build their nests from mud and twigs, just as you see above. However, what makes the above nest remarkable is where the swallows chose to build it.

It turns out that this determined pair of swallows actually built their nest on top of a plastic eagle owl, which was intended to scare the birds away. The owl was put into place by Reynolds, who wanted to prevent her swallows from nesting in a space that she wished to use for storage.

"My husband and I adore the swallows and when they arrive we have them absolutely everywhere," said Reynolds. "But this year we needed some extra storage space in the barn so we put the owl in there to scare them off."

But the wise swallows had other ideas. After two days of carefully watching the fake 3-foot tall eagle owl, a pair of swallows decided that the ideal location to build their nest was on the plastic owl's head. The happy couple are now raising a family of five hungry chicks.

"Unfortunately it took the swallows about two days to work out it wasn't hostile."

Reynolds has resigned herself to waiting until the birds leave to reclaim her space.


DailyMail (quotes, images)

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I used to have a barn that was filled with dozens of swallows nests and a very large swallow community. They would dive bomb at everyone new - of all species - to make sure we knew who was in charge of the flyways and launching pads for the fledgers. Even the barn bats respected their swallow apartment dwelling neighbors.

I used to sit in the aisle in the early mornings and evenings and watch all of the diving, swooping, bug catching and feeding that went on, and especially to hear all of the swallow news being sung to and from the nests.

They were so fascinating to watch - and so remarkably intelligent and innovative about their nest building, repair and redecorating.

Thanks for this story - sure brought back some very special memories.

I never was around swallows nesting before. I was quite startled last week to see several of them harassing a young green heron that perched in a tree close to the culvert/underpass where (I presume) the swallows nest (I can't get in there, but they come and go as if their nests are there). Dive-bombing is exactly what they did, until they chased him away.

Maybe the swallows had the same attitude as Guy de Maupassant, who hated the Eiffel Tower so much, he is said to have dined regularly on top of it, on the grounds that it was the only place in Paris he could eat without having to look at the thing.

Here in a small Australian town, a pair of Welcome Swallows have returned 4 years in a row to bring up a family on top of an alarm box outside a supermarket.
Nobody knows whether the owners have disconnected the alarm but I fancy that prospective burglars would have to be complete strangers in the district if they wanted to risk setting the alarm off in nesting time.

Those plastic owls never work. When I was working for an automotive plant, we had pigeons inside that would occasionally walk in front of the safety light-curtains and trip the interlocks, causing the entire conveyor belt to stop.

So they had me purchase and install three plastic owls. I did research and told them that they didn't work, and proposed some solutions that would have a better chance, but they bought the owls anyway. I felt really silly walking around the plant with plastic owls.

So we installed them beside the light curtains. By the next week the pigeons had already tripped the conveyors again, and were roosting around them. Then somebody put safety glasses on the owl.

By God (and a half) (not verified) on 07 Aug 2007 #permalink