How To Be A Concierge To A Couple Of Swallows?
March 19, 2009 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Spring is raging in Portugal: the air is choking with pollen and musk and every flower, insect, bird and mammal is happily and successfully shouting "Fuck me now!". Meanwhile, a loving couple of dark blue-and-white barn swallows have taken a fancy to the air conditioner in my study, in our new house in Sintra.

We love having them, of course, but, being barn swallows, they need to nest somewhere safer and more accessible, although indoors in the sense of being minimally protected. We've been shooing them away for a week now, with broken hearts, but they keep coming back through my open windows as, for a selfish week, we let them fly about and begin to settle in my study, because we loved looking at them and listening to them complain and rejoice. This was an evil encouragement on our part. Now, when we stand up and clap them away, they seem not to believe we want them out, for their own good. They just keep coming back, ever more enchanting and pleading. What can we do, to guiltily steer them to a better nesting place, given that there are thousands of these places available around us and all Portuguese consider them as the luckiest birds there are, apart from it being a crime to disturb them in any way? Any advise would be much welcomed and thanked. Many thanks for any humane, considerate suggestions!
posted by MiguelCardoso to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Nice to see you Migs. If you and the Mrs. can tolerate a cat, the swallows aren't likely to hang around in the presence of a feline... or a weasel for that matter. Good luck to you.
posted by netbros at 7:48 PM on March 19, 2009

What a lovely AskMe.

I would get a cat. Even a fat lazy one. Especially a fat lazy one, since I wouldn't like to make a suggestion of this nature and find that the feline has a particular thirst for barn swallow blood, and massacres the entire tribe.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:51 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: The solution to pesky songbirds turns out to be a life-sized model of an owl. Mounted near the area, the songbirds will clear out and never return.

Something like this. (I'm not recommending this source, I'm just using it as an example.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:51 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stuffed owl? Even better. And what a wonderful-looking town!
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:54 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: We have 3 cats, netbros, but they're all heartless assassins, so we keep them in the front garden, where any bird can see (or hear) them salivating and tweeting from afar and so avoid them with the utmost nonchalance. My study is at the back. I don't want to frighten the swallows - they've travelled 5000 miles from South Africa just to be here, after all - I would just like to tenderly redirect them to the many better homes (wine cellars; barns; abandoned houses) presently available to them around these parts. Swallows are sacred here and a sort of symbol. I need a persuasive strategy to get then out of my rooms - but not involving violence or the threat of it. This would get us into serious trouble with the Police, who protect these swallows absolutey and quite rightly.

But thanks for the suggestion, as no swallow was ever caught by even the quickest cat, being even faster. So it might be worth a try, if everything else tanks. Cheers!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:05 PM on March 19, 2009

No chance of a nice nest box of a comfortable size, tacked up under the eaves outside the window? No guarantee that they would find it more attractive than the top of your air conditioner, but if they did, you could continue to enjoy them. Cup-shaped ones like these would take away some of the work of cementing for them, but anything made of wood with a sturdy ledge and sides would make it easy for them to build a home.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:13 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: notquitemaryann: a great idea but only for non-European swallows, which will gladly accept a home not made by themselves. Old World swallows, however, insist on making their own mudnests - so you can't tempt them away.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:22 PM on March 19, 2009

Ah, so it isn't just a difference of coconuts. That's a pity. Sorry.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:32 PM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Enclose the ledge with chicken wire painted to match the walls.
posted by hortense at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2009

Turning on the air conditioner periodically doesn't drive them away? To deter pigeons, people install those bird barrier spikes. Maybe you can find something that would work the same way for your swallows.
posted by various at 9:34 PM on March 19, 2009

Oh, you don't have screens on your windows (and OMG what a beautiful place!)
posted by various at 9:40 PM on March 19, 2009

Does running the AC do anything to discourage them? Perhaps turn it on when they are there. I'd be so tempted to just let them be! In South Africa, the swallows entertained me quite a bit. I'm almost certain those birds were actually playing precision flying games, as they would come in small groups (maybe 4 birds) and swoop in and tag a spot on my neighbors house.
posted by Goofyy at 9:47 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: I redirected them elsewhere by pasting a small silhouette (about 30cm) of an eagle cut from black bristol board on the window glass, pretty much like they do on glass sound barriers. And I love swallows, too, but your air conditioner (and the floor beneath it) are going to be quite a messy place once they've nested.
posted by _dario at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2009

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