CONSERVATION: Tree swallow study

    Tree swallows are thriving in the Meadowlands once again, thanks to an innovative nesting box program.

  And the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission now has the data to prove it.

  With a huge boost from local scout troops, families and other groups, the Meadowlands Commission has erected some 250 nesting boxes in marshes throughout the 30.4-square-mile district.

    This year, with the help of Using_the_gps GPS devices, the Meadowlands Commission naturalists Mike Newhouse and Gabrielle Bennett-Meany are keeping track of tree-swallow activity in all of the nesting boxes.

   They found that more than 60 percent were occupied by nesting pairs, with 610 eggs laid and more than 480 nestlings  successfully fledged as of July 15.

  Click "Continue reading…" for more images and information.


    Tree swallows are a popular bird, not just for theirTree_swallow_with_food_for_young iridescent beauty and graceful speed, but also because they are voracious insect-eaters. 

    It has been estimated that a family of tree swallows can eat hundreds upon hundreds of midges, mosquitoes and other insects in a day.

    The birds arrive in the district in April, raise their families, then migrate to Florida and points south again in midsummer.

    Each nesting pair has a clutch of two to eight eggs. A_tree_swallow_nest Pictured here is a look inside a nestng box, with young inside.

     The nest-box program began nearly 20 years ago when a Meadowlands Commission naturalist put up a few nesting boxes for the six-inch-long birds, which have slowly been losing places to nest as the region gets built-out.

    The program has grown into a major grassroots effort. For the past six years, the Meadowlands Commission has conducted workshops that have enabled families and groups to build the nesting houses from kits – and then donate them to the tree swallows.

Decorated_box_2     The community response has been strong, including families, scouts, Women’s Clubs, and a group of adults with developmental disabilities that created boxes so beautiful that the NJMC naturalists hate to put them in a marsh.

    But building the nesting boxes is just the start.

   After putting the boxes on poles along the edge of marshes throughout the district over the past twoNjmc_naturalists_approach_nest_box decades, Bennett-Meany and Newhouse are now in a labor-intensive effort to record the activity in each of the 250 boxes every two to three weeks.

    They use GPS devices to determine which locations have the most breeding success. Baby_tree_swallow The naturalists hope to expand the program by another 50 to 100 boxes next year.

   The Meadowlands and its more than 8,000 acres of urban wetlands are prime habitat not just for tree swallows.

    The district provides a year-round or seasonal home for more than 260 avian species, many of them threatened and endangered.

   Like the tree swallow, many of these imperiled birds breed in the Meadowlands.

   They underscore its importance, both as a magnet for birds and as an indispensable habitat for other species whose population has been dwindling.

17 thoughts on “CONSERVATION: Tree swallow study

  1. Patsy Curley

    I am looking for nesting data for Tree Swallows for 2006, 2007, 2008 in order to compare with the results in the 14 boxes I monitor in Western MA. Anyone know where I can get some info on number of nests, eggs, hatching and fledging percentages?

  2. Jen

    I live in Bitish Columbia Canada
    For the past two years we have noticed a dramatic decrease in our tree and violet green swallow populations. BC has been spraying for mosquitoes and we were wondering if our swallows are being starved out. Would anyone know if this is a possibility or could there be some other reason.

  3. Herb Flavell

    Here is what I do for the tree swallows on my farm in Pennsylvania.
    23 years ago when we built our home on an old dairy farm that had not had a cow on the land since 1964. There was lots of 6 inch pipe left over from building our septic system. So I cut them at 12 inches and cut wood plugs for both ends with about an inch and a half entry hole. I then screwed them to the electric poles that cross our lawn. I also hung them to trees and barn over hangs. My latest idea that also draws Blue Birds is to use Folgers coffee containers. Cut a wood plug for the end and drill a 1 1/2 inch entry hole.That serves 2 purposes makes a home for the birds and keeps the containers out of the land fills. How I remember those. The Wood-Ridge dumps the Carlstadt dumps the North Arlinton dumps.One thing I learned with the Folgers containers is, I hung 7 on my garage. 3 on each side and one above the rear door. I left them red. The first year the birds nested in all 7. 6 pair of tree swallows and 1 pair of bluebirds. Then the 3rd year they stopped using them. No wonder the bees like the red color. So to fix that I paint them brown, black or white. If you want to supply a home for bees that spread pollen then leave them red. So tube nest boxes can be cleaned I put a screw in each side and a lock screw on the top. Come spring birdhouse cleaning just remove the lock screw and tilt the plug in. Then using a long screwdriver drag out the feathers, twigs and brown grass. Oh watch out for the mouse that has nested in it all winter to keep warm.

  4. Herb Flavell

    If you would like to see some of the bird videos go here.
    Look for the video stuffyinhere it shows a tree swallow in a tube nest. That nest has lasted 23 years because its PVC. There are also many videos of our nutty Cardinal that lands on the window and peeks in. He either wants in the house or likes to watch our TV. hE HAS BEEN DOING THIS FOR 10 YEARS.

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  7. Ryan Gosling

    With a huge boost from local scout troops, families and other groups, the Meadowlands Commission has erected some 250 nesting boxes in marshes throughout the 30.4-square-mile district.


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