By Katie Marks, Networx
The swooping, graceful flight of the swallow is a beautiful thing to watch, especially on a spring evening, and there's something charming about the young birds as they fledge and start learning to fly. What's not so great, however, is the havoc these birds can wreak on your home and garden. Fortunately, you have a number of humane pest control options when it comes to discouraging swallows and helping them settle somewhere more appropriate and healthy for both them and their young families.
Historically, swallows nested in cliffs, which provided ample overhangs and shelter for building their distinctive mud nests. However, buildings offer many of the same functions, as demonstrated by the massive swallow community of San Juan Capistrano, which has become internationally famous. The birds settle in at the eaves of homes and other structures, taking advantage of ample building materials and the perfect shelter to create their homes.
On a basic level, swallows are a nuisance. Their nests can look unsightly, for starters, and they leave long streaks of you-know-what down the outside walls of your home. Swallows also tend to create messes around their nests that can be unpleasant to look at. But the problem doesn't stop there. The birds and their nests can host serious zoonotic diseases that can cross from the birds to people, including salmonella and toxoplasmosis, and their nests become attractive to insects who will settle in and create a secondary problem for you.
If this has you thinking you should run out into the yard right now and start powerwashing those nests down, put down the hose and compressor. Swallows, along with their nests, eggs, and young, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. You can't harass or "take" (government language for "kill") swallows and their young, nor can you interfere with their nests while they are in active use -- unless, of course, you fancy paying a big fine.
So what can you do?
Install bird netting. This fine-meshed product can be installed under your eaves after swallows depart to keep the next generation from settling in. Since they can't fit through the netting, they won't be able to use the old nests.
Another option is bird slopes. These PVC panels are designed to prevent nesting and roosting activities by creating a smooth, slippery surface that repels little bird toes. Clip them on under your eaves to prevent swallow encampments. Contact a Los Angeles carpenter to discuss bird slope installation options.
Slick surfaces. Swallows have a hard time nesting on metals, glass, and smoothly-painted surfaces. That's good news for you, if you're willing to make some architectural tweaks to the exterior of your home to convince the birds to set up camp elsewhere.
Nest removal. Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to take down nests outside of the breeding season without a permit. If the swallows are actively using their nests, you need a permit from an environmental agency, and a compelling reason like a significant threat to human health. With the nests removed, you can talk to an exterminator about addressing remaining insects.