Mud Nests under the Eaves

By Dave Hanks

Those mud nests under your house or barn eaves are most likely made by Barn Swallows. You can knock the nests down or hose them down, but the birds are very persistent. They do prefer rough surfaces to smoothly painted ones. The Cliff Swallow is another species that builds mud nests usually on the top of a wall under an overhang, and not on vertical surfaces like the Barn Swallow. Barn Swallows also utilize canal bridges for nest construction. These areas are handy for the birds because of the nearness of the water and a plentiful supply of bugs that are always found flying above the water surface.

Barn Swallows have buff colored bellies, chestnut throats, and bluish or blackish dorsal surfaces. It is the only swallow with a forked tail. Like all swallows, it has a small head and beak, and spends most of its time in the air scooping up insects while in flight. These birds have very short legs which are not conducive to ground activity. When collecting mud, they are forced to shuffle along instead of a normal walk.

They will nest in small colonies and, also, do cooperative hunting. Most of their hunting is done close to the ground. Often, they will follow farm machinery to take advantage of the insects that the equipment stirs up. If a predator, such as a cat, approaches the nest the entire colony will mob the intruder in an impressive display of aerial acrobatics.

The Barn Swallow is found on all continents except Australia. They are also tolerant of human activity.

(A pair at rest, but alert to any insect activity)