Is That a Tree Swallow in my Bluebird House?
Bluebirds aren't the only species to use nest boxes! Learn about tree swallows' nesting habits and how to choose a swallow bird house.
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Many backyard birders grow concerned when another species swoops into their bluebird boxes. A closer look at who’s moving in is warranted, since invasive species like house sparrows can harm and even kill bluebirds. But not all non-bluebird residents mean trouble! A lovely tree swallow will use a bird house meant for bluebirds.
Tree Swallows Use Bird Houses
The tree swallow is a native bird species that builds its nests in the same type of birdhouse bluebirds use. Their range stretches through the northern and upper western United States, as well as most of Canada, during the summer months. These uniquely colored birds are extremely fun to watch as they swoop and swerve, chasing after insects. You should be delighted if they move into your bluebird box!
“I was so disappointed that a tree swallow family took over my bluebird nesting box (above) but I could not chase them away. So I decided to enjoy this family! By the end of June, the little ones were very anxious to be fed! I love be able to enjoy nature up close and personal in my backyard,” says Carol Pedersen.
Baby swallows are too cute — here are 16 super sweet photos of them.
Tree swallows are cavity nesters. They’ll build nests in holes woodpeckers leave in trees, but they’ll also use bluebird boxes if available. The female builds her nest out of grass, needles and feathers, and she’ll lay up to eight white eggs.
Discover fascinating barn swallow facts.
How Can I Help the Bluebirds?
If you’re concerned your favorite bluebirds won’t nest in your yard with the bluebird box taken by a tree swallow family, here’s a potential solution. If you have enough space for it, consider putting up two nest boxes. Just make sure to monitor both boxes so invasive bird species don’t get in.
Even if you’re disappointed not to have nesting bluebirds, you cannot remove a swallow nest from the house. Unlike house sparrows, swallows are native birds and their nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. But we don’t think there’s reason to be upset. Swallows are exciting, gorgeous birds, and any bird lover would be lucky to have them in their yard.
Swallow Bird House Options
Hang up a birdhouse on a sturdy poll in an open area if you’re interested in bringing nesting tree swallows to your yard. Most of these houses also work for bluebirds and other cavity-nesting birds. So just as there’s no guarantee your bluebird box won’t get a swallow, there’s no guarantee your swallow bird house won’t attract a bluebird! We like this attractive wooden house available from Etsy, which is made with reclaimed materials.