Encouraging the Right Birds to Visit and/or Live at Your Barn to Help Control Flying Pests

As a life-long horse person interested in preserving the environment, I can tell you that the benefits of using fly predators are easy to understand and once you’ve used them, you will never look back! You’ll get rid of pest flies before they hatch, and fly predators are 100% chemical free! If you're using fly predators on your property, you've no doubt already seen how fantastic these little bugs are, but if your neighbors aren't following your example, you may still spot adult flies lurking around. By staying away from especially lethal fly elimination repellents and pesticides, did you know you can encourage insect eating birds to frequent your barn? Birds typically eat huge numbers of a wide range of insects, each and every day. Cultivating relationships with these little flying wonders can prove to be a highly cost effective way to boost your insect control program! So how do you encourage the right birds to nest at your barn?

The Winged Insect Trap.

Natural Pest Control
The male violet green swallow seen in California

Swallows, while tiny, are an ideal bird species to encourage to nest at your barn. This little bird can eat hundreds (even thousands) of bugs and insects every single day. There are actually a few different type of swallows found in North America. Native Swallows in the US include violet-green swallows, tree swallows, barn swallows, bank swallows, cliff swallows, rough-winged swallows and purple martins.

As a migratory bird who follows the seasons, Swallows typically fly to Central America to spend the winter, returning to North America in the spring. They are approximately five or six inches in length with a slender, aero-dynamic body. They dart about as they fly, their quick swooping motion allowing them grab insects clean off the ground. Their wings and tails are pointed to aid their quick, direct flight. Found in a range of colors, violet-greens have white on their cheeks and flanks with greenish-blue wings and backs. Tree swallows have similar markings but with less white on their faces. The throat and undersides of barn swallows are reddish, with dark brown wings and backs. Cliff swallows are similarly marked, but slightly duller in color. Breeding season starts in May during which time, you may notice the swallows out and about collecting nesting materials. The female Swallow will lay about four to six eggs and will incubate them for about two weeks. Both the male and female care for the young which develop wing feathers large enough for flight within 16-24 days after hatching.


How to Encourage Swallows to Nest on Your Property.

To encourage violet-green and tree swallows onto your property, you can easily build or buy nest boxes, which these birds find extremely inviting. You will need to find out which types of Swallows are native to your area, as nesting boxes must be specific to the species of Swallow you’re trying to attract. Don’t try to shortcut this, if you install boxes that are wrong for the Swallows in your area, you could end up with Starlings, who will only scare the Swallows away. Contact your local Audubon chapter for more information. You can also help the swallows find nesting materials by leaving horse hair on the ground in clumps after grooming. The Swallows find horse hair to be very soft and durable and are renowned for using it to line their nests.

If you are able to, (given that they pose no risk,) it's a good idea to leave dead trees in place to allow birds to create a natural nesting space.  If that’s not possible, you can provide suitable nest boxes. Not only will you help to grow local Swallow populations, but, you may also find a significant reduction in the creepy crawlies at your barn.  In conjunction with Fly predators, Swallows are a truly effective way to manage flying pests.

 * Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons