At the Project:
Even though nesting is over and all your Tree Swallows have left there are still things
that need doing, chores like box cleaning, summarizing records, reporting nesting
results to national databases, and assessing the season. It's project wrap-up time.
What should you do with the old nests?
- Old nests should be removed from the boxes. Doing this helps rid the boxes of
ectoparasites that might otherwise overwinter in the nest material.
- Wear disposable gloves if you can. Used nests can be messy and germy.
- Remove nests from boxes, standing so debris doesn't blow in your face.
- Seal old nest materials in a trash bag and dispose properly.
- Exception: if there has been a major blowfly infestation, take the bag of nests
elsewhere, empty them on the ground and leave them. This allows tiny wasps
that parasitize blowflies to mature inside blowfly pupae that remain in the nest.
Big parasites often have little parasites of their own!
- If vandalism is a concern you may want to take your boxes and poles down.
- Remove boxes and poles if land owners need to mow the field.
- Once removed, boxes can be hosed and scrubbed. Wearing gloves, rinse
boxes with a dilute bleach solution, then rinse again thoroughly with water.
Doing this kills most ectoparasites and disease organisms that could otherwise
live through winter in box cracks and surfaces.
- Make repairs, seal cracks or perform other maintenance if necessary.
- Store boxes and poles out of the elements; they'll last much longer.
- If you leave your boxes up you may want to wipe them inside and out with a rag
soaked with rubbing alcohol, especially if you suspect they harbor mites.
Assess the past season and prepare for the next:
- One valuable post-nesting exercise is a careful assessment of the just-
completed season. Ask yourself:
- Were there any fixable problems that couldn't be dealt with while the swallows
were present? What can be done now to prevent recurrences?
- Do any boxes need to be relocated due to predation or to excessive
competition among the swallows or between them and other species?
- What improvements could be made? What experiments could be tried?
- Are there any issues to discuss with property owners or managers?
Share your experiences:
- If you've enjoyed your Tree Swallow Project experiences consider sharing what
you've learned with others.
- You may find sharing directly with family, friends or community groups
rewarding, and if you want to connect with a wider audience Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube, bloging and other social media offer endless possibilities.
- Consider inviting other people to help or observe next year.
- Encourage others to create their own Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects.
- Summarize your nest records and report them to Nestwatch, so your findings
will contribute to the growing scientific database of information on the breeding
performance of North American cavity-nesting birds.
Use your Tree Swallow Project as a step in your quest to learn more about
- We hope creating and managing your Tree Swallow Project has truly helped
you learn more about birds, and we also hope these experiences will motivate
you to expand the scope of your investigations.
- Though many of the issues in a Tree Swallow's life, its basic biology, ecology,
and behavior, are the same in principle as those faced by other birds, each
species has its own attributes, its own fascinating ways of living, interacting and
coping with life's issues. So, while we hope you'll continue to enjoy and learn
from your Tree Swallows, we urge you not to stop there.
- Here's our suggestion: Pick another bird species that interests you, find what's
being done to conserve and manage it, and see if there are ways you can
assist. You might be surprised at the contributions you could make.
- As for us, we'll continue working with Tree Swallows, trying to increase our
knowledge and refine our management techniques. But being swallow-
obsessed we'd also like some in-depth experiences with other members of the
- Some year soon we hope to volunteer at a Golondrinas de las Americas
research site out west where Violet-green Swallows are the focal species.
- And if we're going west we wouldn't want to miss the huge Cliff Swallow colonies
in Nebraska or the Cave Swallows in south Texas or at Carlsbad Caverns, New
- Closer to home we hope to experiment with nest tubes placed under bridges
and boat docks for Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Rough-wings are our
sentimental favorites. Overlooked by most people, they were the first swallows
we knew back in our childhood near New York State's Erie Canal.
- The beautiful photo below of a Violet-green Swallow, a Tree Swallow, and a
Northern Rough-winged Swallow was taken by Tracey Norris in Washington.
|Nest Box Care
and Project Assessment
Learn About Birds at Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects
|Life History and Nesting Guide, Spring Return, Songbird Behavior, Song and Calls,
Nest Site Competition, Pair Formation, Nest Building, Bird Flight, Mating,
Eggs and Egg Laying, Incubation, Nest Takeovers, Feather Care, Hatching and Begging,
Parental Care, Sexing and Aging, Nestling Growth, Mortality Causes, Older Nestlings,
Fledging, Ectoparasites, Juveniles, Flocks, Migration, Molt, and Winter,
Box Care and Project Assessment