Swallows and Martins
Interactions With Humans
Swallows are boisterous and active birds, which maintain a stream of cheerful twitterings that many people find pleasing. The fact that some species nest in the vicinity of human habitations means that people can easily watch the comings and goings of these small, charismatic birds. Observers can gain an impression of the daily life of the swallow, from the building of nests, through the rearing of nestlings, to the trials and tribulations by which fledglings learn to fly and to hunt their own food of insects.
Swallows of all species eat enormous numbers of flying insects. Some of the prey insects (such as mosquitos and blackflies) are regarded as pests by humans. As a result, swallows nesting near homes are often considered to be beneficial. Barn and cliff swallows construct their mud nests on buildings. These species do not need encouragement, only tolerance of the small annoyances that some people might perceive about the defecations of these birds. The nesting of tree swallows can be assisted by providing simple nest boxes, while purple martins can be attracted by providing multiple-unit apartment boxes. Because of the relatively large number of birds that can be supported, a colony of purple martins can have a significant effect on the abundance of biting flies in its vicinity.
Forshaw, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Academic Press, 1998.
Turner, A. The Swallow. U.K.: Hamlyn, 1994.
See also Insectivore.