2015 Information Meeting Thursday April 9th 7:00 PM Chilliwack Secondary School

Barn, Bank, and Cliff Swallows have been designated as species at risk in Canada.

We are looking for volunteers to help monitor critical habitats for these birds in the Fraser Valley during the spring and summer. The information collected will help to establish conservation strategies and stewardship actions to foster their survival, and for enhancement of their declining habitat in BC. No prior experience needed, training will be provided.

Thursday April 9th there will be an information meeting for anyone interested in participating in this citizen science study at 7:00 PM at

Room 1007

Neighborhood Learning Centre

Chilliwack Secondary School

46361 Yale Rd, Chilliwack BC V2P 2P5

For further information phone Fernando Selles at 604-792-8062, or email chilliwack.naturalists@gmail.com.

Documenting and Conserving Barn Swallow Project

Barn Swallow Surveys and Stewardship Project  

Barn Swallow populations have declined dramatically over the past 40 years. The species is listed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and is scheduled to be listed on Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2014. Overall there’s a lack of information on the species in British Columbia.


To find out more about this project, submit known nest and roost sighting information, be a survey and research volunteer, or help in any other way (e.g., inform others about the project), please see this website http://bcswallowconservationproject.wordpress.com or contact Greg Ferguson at suncity28@gmail.com

Greg Ferguson, Registered Professional Biologist, B.Sc.    Project Coordinator

The Project

British Columbia (BC) and the Lower Mainland are rich in natural diversity: forest clad mountains; freshwater, estuarine, and coastal habitats; and valley bottom floodplains, wetlands, and agricultural fields sustain a variety of processes and species, and ultimately our health. We are truly fortunate to live in here.

As many naturalists know, birds are an important and noticeable component of this diversity. However, many of the species that occur in BC, particularly the Lower Mainland, have declined and even disappeared from former suitable habitats. Much of this change has been documented by naturalists, with an aim to inform non-naturalists and help conserve the area’s biodiversity which they value greatly.

One group of bird species that has declined and continues to face ongoing threats, both locally and internationally, are grassland and wetland associated species. Birds that come to mind include the raptors, such as the Burrowing Owl, which formerly bred in Boundary Bay, Sea Island, and elsewhere, the Short-eared and Barn Owl, still present in the Lower Mainland but in significantly reduced numbers, and the swallows. Like these after mentioned owls, we continue to witness a decline in one of Canada’s most formerly common bird species, the Barn Swallow (i.e., Breeding Bird Survey data from 1970 to 2009 indicates an overall decline of 76% and a decadal decline of 30% from 1999 to 2009).

So you may wonder, what can I do to slow, stop, and reverse this change? I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not an easy problem to solve. However, I’m also an optimist and believe that each of us has the ability to take actions that can sustain and enhance our local biodiversity. This article is about one such positive action, for which I hope you will appreciate, mimic in your own way, and/or become involved with directly.

The goal of our project is to obtain knowledge about the population and distribution of Barn Swallow and to encourage shared stewardship and conservation actions for the species and its habitat. This project will be undertaken from the spring of 2014 to the fall of 2015, and possible beyond. Its objectives are to:

1.      Assess the status and distribution of Barn Swallows and their important habitats (i.e., foraging, breeding, and roosting areas).

2.      Undertake research to better understand the use of nesting sites by Barn Swallows to inform future stewardship and enhancement actions.

3.      Construct, monitor, and maintain nesting structures and educational signs in suitable habitats.

4.      Collaborate with a diversity of partners to foster awareness of and appreciation for the species, advance cooperation in implementing conservation and recovery actions, and encourage long-term stewardship of Barn Swallows.

5.      Strengthen conservation and stewardship activities around habitats used by Barn Swallows for the benefit of other associated species of concern.

Actions associated with this project will focus on the Lower Mainland region of southwestern BC, including Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District. However, the involvement of others from elsewhere in BC is encouraged and appreciated. At this time, achieving the project’s goal and objectives will be a voluntary and collaborative effort.

To assess the status and distribution of Barn Swallows and their important habitats, surveys will be completed between April 15th and September 15th, with a primary focus on June and July, the peak breeding period for Barn Swallows. Surveys will focus on suitable habitats for Barn Swallows in protected and non-protected habitats. Baseline data (e.g., known nesting sites, the location of historical observations) will be used to guide survey efforts. The number of areas surveyed will ultimately depend on available resources (i.e., volunteer support).

Surveys will primarily be performed by walking or cycling along designated trails within protected areas or traveling by bicycle or in a vehicle along linear routes (e.g., roads), likely involving the use of stand watches  at certain locations.

Team leaders are being sought to help coordinator surveys and associated volunteers within specific areas (e.g., municipality, regional park) or assume other leadership responsibilities, such as leading surveys in a particular protected or non-protected area(s) (e.g., golf course), leading nesting site enhancement and research, and/or helping with administrative tasks.

Surveyors will be asked to survey suitably habitats at least once per month during the survey period/window, ideally with more surveys being done in June and July. Surveyors will be required to enter field data into an online database of Excel spreadsheet following each survey to track, analyze, and report results. Standard survey forms will be used to collect desired data and training will be provided prior to field work.

Research will be undertaken to better understand the use of nesting sites by Barn Swallows to inform future stewardship, enhancement, and management actions. As such, volunteers are being sought to help collect data on Barn Swallows through the following activities.


1)      monitor the use of known active nesting sites (i.e., presence/absence of breeding birds, number and location of nests, and reproductive success).

2)      monitor the use of new nesting sites where enhancement measures (e.g., placement of ledges and/or overhanging cover, construction of new nest structures) have been undertaken.

3)      document the location, distance traveled, and habitat being used at active nest sites.

So how will volunteer contributions to this project help and what will information be used for? Information collected through volunteer involvement in this project will help achieve the project’s goal and objectives and the following results:

·         contribute to recovery planning and implementation for Barn Swallow and other species of concern by government agencies and other stakeholders (e.g., facilitating responsibilities under Canada’s Species at Risk Act).

·         provide a base for future monitoring and management actions to conserve and enhance Barn Swallows and their habitats.

This project is being conducted in collaboration with a diversity of partners, including the general public, naturalist groups and their members, government agencies, public institutions, private businesses, and others.

If you would like to find out more about this project, submit known nest and roost sighting information, be a survey and research volunteer, or help in any other way (e.g., inform others about the project), please see this website http://bcswallowconservationproject.wordpress.com or contact Greg Ferguson at suncity28@gmail.com 

Greg Ferguson, Registered Professional Biologist, B.Sc.

Project Coordinator

Interesting Barn Swallow Facts

          The density of Barn Swallows in BC is highest in the Lower Mainland region.

          Barn Swallows are closely associated with human-influenced habitats, nesting almost exclusively in or on human-made structures [i.e. 92% of nests in BC were found in or on buildings, including barns, garages, sheds, and houses, whereas other structures, such as bridges and wharfs, made up 4% of nest locations (n = 2,896)].

          Barn Swallows commonly reuse nests from previous years and can produce two clutches each summer.

          Old nests are important cues in site selection decisions by adult and juvenile Barn Swallows.

          A significant positive relationship exists between the number of old nests at a site and group size (i.e., number of Barn Swallow breeding pairs).

          Breeding Barn Swallows forage up to 600 m from active nest sites, but at times only up to 138 m, making finding their nest sites easier (e.g., one can simple look for nests on or in buildings/structures near Barn Swallow foraging areas during the summer).

          Barn Swallows usually fly and forage no more than 10 m above the ground and often lower than 1 m.

          Barn Swallows concentrate in large numbers (2000 plus birds) at communal, wetland roost  sites during migration (please contact me if you know of such sites

Barn Swallow, adult male, BC (© Brian Klinkenberg)

[1] A stand watch is a method of surveying whereby surveyors stand in one location and assess an area for the presence of Barn Swallows, usually for a set duration of time (e.g., 10-15 minutes).