Cliff Swallow Monitoring

Cliff Swallow Monitoring

We’ve now spent three years searching out Cliff Swallow colonies in New Hampshire, and 2019 was the first time we’ve been able to visit almost all of them in a single year. With most results in, it looks like there were 20 active colonies, and that these supported roughly 150 pairs of birds. The latter number is actually higher than the estimated total I came up with after 2017-18 field work, which provides us with a little hope.

However, our 20 colonies remain but a shadow of the 80 or more known during the early 1980s, and fully half of our current nests appear to be in just four colonies. These are located in Pittsburg, Milan, Tamworth, and Danbury, and contained a total of 86 nests in 2019. Thankfully, all four sites, and most of the others, appear to be secure, meaning they’re safe from disturbance. In fact, the owners of three of the sites (all on farm buildings) actually enjoy their swallows, and one even creates a source of mud to aid them in nest building. The fourth large site is on a bridge, and persists despite repairs to that bridge a few years ago. At the opposite extreme, one site active last year appears to have been abandoned after birds started arriving in early June. When I visited in July, House Sparrows had taken over all visible nests. I was unable to explore elsewhere on the property at that time, but will attempt to do so next year. The good news is that House Sparrows currently do not co-occur with Cliff Swallows at any of the larger colonies.

Project Leader: Pam Hunt

Photos: Cliff Swallow in nest, by Pam Hunt (top); by Holly Bauer (circle).

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