Tiny swallows, big flight!

Swallows will soon be landing in Stanley Park to breed. Violet-green Swallows, who return to their nesting grounds much earlier than other insectivorous (insect-eating) birds, overwinter in southern Mexico and Central America, as far south as Costa Rica. This is usually the first swallow species to return to BC in the spring, and should be arriving back any day now, although they won’t begin building their nests until mid-April.

Tree Swallows set up house on Lost Lagoon. (Photo: Peter Wood)

Tree Swallows are already making their way north from their wintering grounds in Mexico, California and Arizona and will start arriving in mid-March. The entire journey will have taken them one to two months! Both Tree and Violet-green Swallows use cavities in dead trees to nest, which are in short supply around the city. SPES has 15 nest boxes that we will be setting-up in mid-March around Lost Lagoon to provide these swallows with nesting habitat. Having the boxes also makes it possible for us to study these birds’ population trends and reproductive cycle.

SPES staff install a nest box on Lost Lagoon. (Photo: Michael Schmidt)

You can help!

Once a week during breeding season, SPES volunteers observe each nest box to determine which ones are occupied and by which swallow species. We conduct passive surveys using binoculars only (we don’t open the nest boxes during breeding season). In addition to this SPES weekly survey, observations from Park visitors are very valuable in helping us understand the swallow populations here, as well as the birds’ preference for nest box structures and placement.

Share your sightings with us during your visit today:

  • Come to the Nature House and staff will help set you up to log your sightings.
  • Pick up a clipboard, pencil, and binoculars to survey as many nest boxes as you wish! Tip: Note the nest box number where you observed swallow activity.
  • Share your pictures with us on social media! #StanleyParkEcology

By Meghan Cooling, Conservation Technician