Columbia Valley Swallow Project

Aerial insectivores, long-distant migrants, species-at-risk!  Who are we?

Bank and Barn Swallows

Do you know where these species are nesting in the Columbia Valley? If so, we want to hear from you!

Large bank swallow colony near Radium. Photo: Rachel Darvill

Populations of birds that catch insects on the wing (avian aerial insectivores) have been declining for decades, and conservation actions must be put into place to help halt and reverse this trend. Bank swallow – a species with intrinsic value that provides immense mosquito control and higher quality of life for many humans – is facing one of the fastest population declines for a species in Canada with an estimated 98% population loss in Canada over the past 40 years. With only 2% of the population remaining in Canada, this species deserves urgent conservation action. Similarly, barn swallows have had an overall population decline of 76% in Canada in a 40-year period.

Before implementing on the ground conservation actions, there was a great need to undertake inventory work to determine nesting locations for bank and barn swallows in the Columbia Valley. The main purpose of year one (year 2020) of the Columbia Valley Swallow Project (CVSP) has been to locate nest sites. Volunteer citizen-scientists have been trained and involved with monitoring. Breeding locations and nest monitoring information is already being used to inform the management of important swallow habitats and contribute to provincial and federal recovery planning and implementation processes.This project is also providing information to the public regarding the Migratory Birds Convention Act including obligations under this Act – we have been assisting private landowners with empowering education regarding their duties to protect nests. The illegal removal of swallow nests on private lands (due to human intolerance of noise or droppings) is of great conservation concern. Education and public awareness programs like the CVSP are needed to reduce the destruction of existing nest sites and colonies

In 2020, the Columbia Valley Swallow Project (CVSP) located 135 swallow colony sites in steep friable soils and 96 were confirmed as active bank swallow colonies.  Most were discovered in the region between Canal Flats and Edgewater, indicating that this area provides critical breeding habitat for this species. The CVSP also identified two large barn swallow colonies with a third site possible (many barn swallows in the area, but unable to access the large nesting structure on private land due to liability concerns). All three sites are under threat due to nest removal and/or future decommissioning of buildings. Swallow populations are facing additional threats such as habitat destruction, illegal nest removals, and large-scale impacts such as climate change.  This project is important as it works to halt and reverse the significant population declines facing two at-risk bird species.

In subsequent years of the CVSP, the emphasis will be on-the-ground habitat enhancement and stewardship, such as erecting artificial nesting structures in suitable habitat. A 5-year (2021-2026) Columbia Valley Swallow Habitat Enhancement Project is currently being developed with several partner groups.

With your help, we have an opportunity to help reverse the decline of swallow populations. 

Please check out this short video that was created by the Kootenay Conservation Program for this project.

 

If you are interested in becoming involved with this swallow conservation project, please contact Program Biologist Rachel Darvill at racheldarvill@gmail.com. 

For more on swallow ID, click here.

Wildsight Golden would like to acknowledge financial and in kind contributions from the following organizations:

 

 

Click here for a link to a story about the decline of swallows and a bit about the Columbia Valley Swallow Project where biologist Rachel Darvill was interviewed on CBC.  This story is in french and was aired on July 3, 2020. Listen here 

Read October 2020 update about this project by clicking here.

 

To view the final report for the 2020 Columbia Valley Swallow Project, click the link below:

Columbia Valley Swallow Project Final Report Jan 22 2021

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