Swallow Houses…If you build it, they will come!

In Birds, Kids, News by couchiching

Teach your children to build bird houses. It will provide them with many life lessons, an incredible bonding experience and it will provide housing/nesting for our precious avian friends.

“David, it’s Carol”, the person on the end of the telephone said, “would you believe it, we have tree swallows all around the house you gave us yesterday!” Nothing could warm my heart more.

Hydro One had just finished cutting trees and branches from underneath their power lines, and my neighbours a few doors down had asked if we would like the wood from a couple of trees.  As we supplement our heating with a wood stove, responding positively, we collected a mid-sized birch tree and a small maple from their yard.

To thank them for their generosity, we took them a tree swallow house, always having a few on hand, this one however, being the last from this year’s production.

It is a rite of spring for me to build swallow houses–  each March getting the urge to build a few from left over’s from wood working projects and from scraps from local contractors who know I would never refuse a scrap of usable wood or asphalt shingles.

It all began many years ago now.  My father was a clergyman, so our family had few financial resources, but lots of love and affection.  I was taught at an early age that if I wanted something, I would have to work and save to get it.  That was a given and well understood, and appreciated as I grew older.

I don’t know if it was because he didn’t have the money to give me, or for lessons to be learned, or the companionship , but my father taught me how to build bird houses when I was very young likely 5 or 6.

The plan he had created was carefully traced on to the wood and cut out by hand with coping and hand saws.  Together we built them, but it was this seven year old boy who peddled them, sold off my Air Flow wagon down the streets of Perth, Ontario (little children were completely safe on the streets of small towns in those days!).  Getting a buck apiece for them, in total there was sufficient money to buy a train ticket and two tickets to the Maple Leafs’ game with my sister who was already in college in Toronto. The Eaton’s Santa Claus parade thrown in!

No longer peddling the bird houses, they are offered to various charitable fundraising activities and to give to friends.  Those scraps of wood have been turned into swallow houses every year since, with only one exception, that being when undergoing radiation therapy.

The real prize is the day the swallows return.  Quite often hands will still be on the house while hanging it in a tree when the swallows are already on the doorstep looking in!

As with many insectivores, our swallow species have declined in numbers recently.  We used to have 40 swallow houses on our property and adjacent neighbours’ and every house would be occupied.  Now we only have 10 pair on the combined properties.  The reward doesn’t end with swallows for during the winter months, chickadees and nuthatches will use the houses every night.

If there is a moral to the story, it is simply this: As we celebrate Father’s Day, Fathers and Grandfathers, teach your children to build bird houses.  It will provide them with many life lessons; it will be an incredible bonding experience for both you and them; and it will provide housing/nesting for our precious avian friends…and possibly a rite of spring for them as it has for me for nearly seventy years.

Written by David A. Homer.