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suicidal barn swallows?

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  • suicidal barn swallows?

    This year we have had some of the newly hatched sparrows plunge to their death. Not sure why or how this is happening but I have no idea what to do if one survives the fall. They are falling onto sand footing in one of the run in sheds so I guess survival is possible. Will the mother take it back if I put it back in the nest (without touching it bare handed)?
    Ridge Farm Inc.-full care retirement

  • #2
    If the parents are not the ones throwing them out then yes, they will take them back.... you can also put the babies in a different container, high up out of harms way and the parents wil feed them there.

    You do not have to worry about smell as most (all?) birds cannot smell. I have raised parrots for over 30 years, and we can touch babies without smell bothering the parents... I was informed years ago by one of the top avian vets in the country that birds cannot smell.


    • #3
      The parents will continue to feed it if it's returned. But don't be surprised if you find it hitting footing again.
      Most of the time the ones that fall out are because they were shoved out by the other baby birds. Happens a lot especially if the eggs don't all hatch near the same time. A day or two between eggs hatching can mean life or death, the other babies have a day or two head start and are stronger and slightly larger and the small one will either get pushed out or die of starvation (can't be pushy enough to make sure it gets fed) and be thrown out because it's dead.

      You can pop it back into the nest to see if it gets fed. Or else hand raise it for a short time until it gets bigger and stronger and then return it. I've done both and had luck doing it those ways. Hand raising it until it's adult is tough because they learn how to catch bugs better from mom and dad and the parents still feed them on and off while they're learning. A person can't do that, at least I can;t think of a way they can. I stink at catching bugs.
      You jump in the saddle,
      Hold onto the bridle!
      Jump in the line!


      • #4
        Originally posted by theoldgreymare View Post
        This year we have had some of the newly hatched sparrows plunge to their death. Not sure why or how this is happening but I have no idea what to do if one survives the fall. They are falling onto sand footing in one of the run in sheds so I guess survival is possible. Will the mother take it back if I put it back in the nest (without touching it bare handed)?
        If the bird is fully feathered, it is most likely a fledgling and has left the nest on it's own and it's parents are caring for it. It is normal for birds to leave the nest before they can fly. If it is unfeathered, then look for a nest and if you can find it, and definitly get it back in there. Do not worry about your scent being on the chick..birds have a very poorly developed sense of smell and will NOT reject a baby that has been touched!


        • #5
          All weekend I periodically had to relocate the fledgling barn swallows who kept ending up in the yard in danger of getting squashed or eaten. They're fully feathered but hadn't quite figured out the flying thing yet -- they could only flutter and hop, or glide down if put somewhere fairly high. A few days later, they're flying from the nest to nearby trees and back, so all is well.

          There's no problem touching them (in fact the Eastern Bluebird website insists I'm supposed to take those babies out several times and examine them, clean the nest, etc.) but I don't know what they're carrying, so I wear gloves or use a plastic bag.
          ... and Patrick


          • #6
            We lose a couple every season, unfortunately my barn aisle is asphalt.
            If the landing doesn't kill them there's usually a barn cat nearby thinking it was a tasty snack tossed from heaven.

            I asked my DH to try to rig some sort of safety net under the nest but he looked at me like I'd sprung a second head...
            Save lives! Adopt a pet from your local shelter.


            • #7
              These are my current lodgers; http://s784.photobucket.com/albums/y...brit/Swallows/
              They built under the roof overhang above my window/balcony. I had to take the pics through the window, so they aren't too sharp.
              ... _. ._ .._. .._


              • #8
                Natural selection at work.

                Our swallows are suicidal in that they play "chicken" with the barn cats, who lie on the ground waiting to be dive-bombed every evening. The birds readily oblige them, it's amazing to watch. Every so often I'll find a stray feather in the barn, but mostly the birds seem to win.
                Click here before you buy.


                • #9
                  I read this thread this morning thinking that I was glad that I wasn't having to deal with the same thing.

                  Then I walked into my barn this afternoon and found 5 newly hatched (???) swallows dead on my concrete aisleway. They're maybe an inch long or less (beak to tail) and featherless with still very visible organs. They seem way too small to have already hatched, but I can't figure out how else they would be on the ground with no shell remnants anywhere. Actually, come to think of it, they must be tiny when they hatch since the eggs are so small.

                  Is that what everyone else is finding? I've been here for 7 years and never seen this rate of infanticide! And I find it odd that my cats are paying no mind to the chicklets.....I wonder if it's because they're already dead by the time they find them???
                  Flying F Sport Horses
                  Horses in the NW


                  • #10
                    I have heard that some birds, notably English sparrows and cowbirds in Central Texas, will wreak havoc on other bird's nest, even throwing out babies. I religiously tear down nests and destroy eggs of these parasitic birds (as recommended by wildlife experts here). The cowbirds lay eggs in other birds' nests, and the sparrows are very aggressive.

                    Updated to add: I think I am correct. I just found this about English sparrows (aka House Sparrows or HOSP) (see below). Check with your local wildlife experts, but I think you are doing a service by destroying their nests and eggs. In fact, I have a number of "decoy" nest boxes, soley for the purpose of letting the sparrows lay eggs and cleaning them out every two weeks in the springtime.

                    RECOGNIZING A HOSP ATTACK - also see photo of dead nestlings
                    Head injuries are typical. Adults or nestlings attacked by HOSP usually (but not always) have visible evidence of pecking/hematomas on the top of the head (sometimes featherless crown or back) and in the eyes. Victims of an attack may be found dead inside the box.
                    Eggs may be pecked in the nestbox (but usually not a pinhole like a House Wren piercing); or removed from the box, and found nearby or underneath it - usually within about 23 feet (Weisheit 1989), with contents (unless they are later eaten by something else like ants.) May disappear one by one, during daytime.
                    Small nestlings may be removed from the box and found nearby, dead or dying (note predators will generally pick them up if on the ground for any length of time so they no corpses may be found). They may have a broken neck only or pecked heads/eyes.
                    HOSP may harass parents so they are unable to feed young, which then starve. They will be seen driving the parents from the box.
                    Afterwards, if the HOSP elect to use the box (which does not always happen), they may be seen perching on top of it, or going in and out.
                    HOSP may build their own nest on top of a corpse. (Sometimes they do not use a box after an attack). See photos of nests and eggs. Their poop kind of looks like a noodle - white and gray in color.
                    Both males and female HOSP will attack, sometimes teaming up.
                    See more photos (warning: graphic) and accounts of HOSP attacks.
                    NOTE: Another small brown bird, the House Wren will also peck eggs (usually two small holes), remove eggs from a nestbox and may remove very young nestlings. Shortly thereafter sticks usually appear. See info on how to deter House Wrens.
                    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


                    • #11
                      Those sparrows are nasty. I've had them in my barn on and off for 2 years now. They chased out my resident swallows last year, this year a different couple moved in and ignored the nasty sparrows. After the female laid eggs the male swallow started getting really aggressive back and one morning I watched the male swallow attacking the heck out of the male sparrow. Then the swallow went after the female sparrows and crashed them into walls and windows. After that day there were tons of feathers all over and the sparrows have left the swallows alone.

                      I actually borrowed my nephew's little RC Helicopter and was chasing sparrows too. Hate those things, they're messy as heck and useless.

                      PNW, I had a new hatchling get tossed from the nest the day it hatched by it's siblings. I was in the stall cleaning when it came down right in front of me. It hatched almost 3 days after the other 3 eggs and the bigger babies shoved it out. It was teeny tiny and you could see almost right through it. Too delicate to survive the fall, even into really deep bedding. Poor thing.
                      You jump in the saddle,
                      Hold onto the bridle!
                      Jump in the line!


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                        Then I walked into my barn this afternoon and found 5 newly hatched (???) swallows dead on my concrete aisleway. They're maybe an inch long or less (beak to tail) and featherless with still very visible organs. They seem way too small to have already hatched, but I can't figure out how else they would be on the ground with no shell remnants anywhere. Actually, come to think of it, they must be tiny when they hatch since the eggs are so small.

                        Is that what everyone else is finding? I've been here for 7 years and never seen this rate of infanticide!
                        This. I have had the occassional feathered one fall from a next but the ones we have found this week have all been like PNWJ described above. We have had three this week (all dead).

                        Thanks for all the replies. If we have any that survive the fall (and don't get stepped on by a horse) at least I know what to do with them now.
                        Ridge Farm Inc.-full care retirement


                        • #13
                          I don't know much about types of birds especially when they are teeny and featherless but I had a rash of dead babies for the last month or so. Started out with some type of bird pushing another type of birds eggs on the ground so they could take over the nest then progressing to babies of all sizes. Some teeny and virtually see through, some almost fully feathered and much larger. Last week I stepped on one in my bare feet. EWWWW I don't think I will ever forget that squish.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home


                          • #14
                            I've had to renest a couple this week. My barn has a pretty steep roofline-the ladder seemed very shaky by the time I got the little guy where he belonged.


                            • #15
                              Yes, nest parasites exist -- house sparrows, cowbirds, and cuckoos all will lay their eggs in other species nests and let the unsuspecting mom raise their babies. When the parasite eggs hatch, that chick will shove out the other eggs and/or chicks and hog all the food for itself. Not a very nice strategy but very successful for the parasites. Both the sparrows and cowbirds are non-native species, so you don't need to feel bad about evicting them.
                              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                              We Are Flying Solo


                              • #16
                                Ugh, I found more dead babies today. One newbie and one that was old enough to have feathers and not look like a little alien.

                                I noticed that one nest in my barn looks different than the rest. It looks like it's made out of dark mud rather than the usual hay/straw/dirt-colored nests. A friend just told me that barn swallows build mud nests, but I'm pretty sure that the swallows are what nest all over my barn every year and this is the different one (i.e. not swallow). Is it possible to identify the birds by identifying the nest? They're all too high up to look in, so I can't see what's in the nests.

                                I'm really tired of picking up tiny corpses and I'm hoping to evict the invaders (if there are any). Any bird advice?
                                Flying F Sport Horses
                                Horses in the NW


                                • #17
                                  Some nests may be darker...depending on what type of dirt/mud the swallow used to build the nest. Some dry out to a light grey color, others are beige and some are dark brown.

                                  Poor babies...my swallows had 3 this year so I'm not as worried as I usually am about them. 4-5 is a big amount for such small nests and those amounts have a much higher risk for a fall, getting shoved out or one doesn't get fed enough and dies. 3 should make it! And yet every time I'm in the barn I watch when mom or dad comes in and count the heads that pop up...and see if they're growing at the same rate. If one stays small and constantly gets rotated out of the way when a meal comes, I remove that one and hand feed it for a few days and then put it back when it's bigger and stronger.

                                  Of course I only have *1* nest...not sure that's possible with tons of nests, LOL!
                                  You jump in the saddle,
                                  Hold onto the bridle!
                                  Jump in the line!


                                  • #18
                                    Okay, did swallow inventory today. All of the active nests in my barn do indeed have barn swallows. 7 nests total with 4 babies in each nest where they're big enough to be popping their heads up for food (not sure if the other 5 nests are being used this year or not). So I guess it was just a prolific egg-laying year and I'll have to chalk up the dead babies to overcrowded nests.

                                    At least I don't feel like I have a serial killer in my barn anymore (well, other than the cats). On the flip side, I guess I'll be cleaning up a lot of bird poop this year!
                                    Flying F Sport Horses
                                    Horses in the NW