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LIVING WITH SWALLOWS

Having swallows or swifts nesting in our house is a blessing! In addition to enjoying the services that birds provide us by feeding on insects and other invertebrates, which can even be dangerous by transmitting diseases, we have the opportunity to see these birds up close and their acrobatic flights brushing our windows.


On the other hand, we have to admit that birds do not always choose the most practical places to build their nests and coexistence may not be peaceful. The first option should always be to try to reach a good-neighborly compromise with the birds. Either by minimizing the impacts they may cause, by placing shelves for waste or simply trying to be tolerant and realizing that all the benefits that birds bring us also come at a small cost.

SEO-BirdLife campaign for the protection of swallow's nests


DROPPING SHELVES

Some swallow species build their nests inside or on the façade of buildings, which can become a nuisance when their droppings start to to pile up on the floor or cause damage. This problem becomes more evident with colonies of Common House Martin, which tend to build several nests on the same façade. Furthermore, these birds are very loyal to their breeding grounds and if the nests are removed they are very likely to rebuild them in subsequent years, so destroying the nests does not solve the problem.

There are alternative measures to nest removal, which is expressly forbidden by law, that solve most of the nuisance caused by the presence of nests in buildings and structures. The dirt produced by Barn Swallows can be alleviated by placing a simple waste shelf under the nests. For Commom House Martin colonies, the solution is to place a long shelf under all the nests in the colony. It is important that these structures do not serve as roosts for unnatural predators such as cats, or natural predators such as owls and other birds of prey.

Although these shelves are a good solution for dealing with the dirt caused by nesting swallows, in most cases it is sufficient to carry out periodic cleaning of the façade or the floor.

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NEST REMOVAL

 

The destruction of nests is prohibited, both during the breeding period and after the swallows have left. According to Decree-Law 140/99, it is forbidden to: destroy, damage, collect or detain their nests and eggs, even empty ones, and this applies to all species of birds that occur naturally in the wild on national territory. Nests can be removed in extraordinary situations, such as when public health is at stake or when a building is being remodelled, by means of an authorisation issued by the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF).  

 

If it is not possible to reach a compromise and it is a necessity to remove the nests, it is possible to do so provided that it is duly authorized by the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF). Requests must be made through a form that can be downloaded here and must be sent via email to the address cites@icnf.pt. The ICNF issues a removal licence which identifies the person/entity that can remove the nests, the place where the nests are and the deadline for removal. The species must be identified on the form and the reason for which the nests are to be removed, if you have difficulty identifying them, you can learn how to identify swallows here and swifts here.

The ICNF authorization, in addition to a legal requirement, is the guarantee that at least the breeding periods of birds are respected and only implies minimization or compensation measures in particular cases of breeding colonies with a relevant size, so it must be a rule to be respect for all those who feel the need to remove bird nests from any structure.


Loulé Market: a good example

 

The Loulé Market with almost 120 years of history is one of the most emblematic architectural examples of this algarvian city and has been a central place in the lives of several generations of Loulétanos.

 

Today the market is managed by the municipal company Loulé Concelho Global, which in 2018 had the need to carry out conservation and waterproofing work on the stonework in the spans of the four facades of the market. It so happens that in 2018 there were about thirty House Martin (Delichon urbicum) nests on the facades of the market, which were right over the areas to be intervened.

Loulé Concelho Global asked the ICNF for authorization to remove the nests, which, after analyzing the situation, issued the license that allowed them to be removed. But after it was verified that there were no eggs or chicks and provided that the work took place between October 30, 2018 (date of the license) and December 31 of the same year, in order to ensure that they were carried out before a new period of reproduction. ​

 

Three years after the removal of the nests, there are about twenty five pairs of House martins breeding on the façades of the Loulé market. We do not know for sure how many of the thirty existing nests in 2018 were occupied and so we can assume that today the market, in addition to having its facade renovated, has again theHouse martins that give it life! The same work during the spring, when the House martins have eggs or young, in addition to being cruel, would have had a much more significant impact on this colony, which would take years to recover.

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