By Jim Williams
Al writes to tell me that Barn Swallows are bothering his bluebird nest boxes. They’re nesting in them, he says. How is he handling this? He’s shooting them. No, no, no, no. Can’t shoot songbirds. There’s a federal law against that. Plus, his ‘problem’ birds can’t be Barn Swallows. That species doesn’t nest in boxes. His birds have to be Tree Swallows, the bluebird’s friend. Tree Swallows use nest boxes. This is the theory: If you place two nest boxes close to each other, say 15 feet apart, swallows will occupy one and then defend that territory from use by another pair of Tree Swallows. This leaves the second box for bluebirds (or House Wrens or Black-capped Chickadees). The swallows don’t care if bluebirds are close neighbors. They don’t compete for food. Both eat insects, but swallows capture bugs on the wing while bluebirds pick them from the ground. Problem birds? How do you handle it?