Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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Here at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, we have a wonderful barn swallow colony that has nested in the cement overhangs of our loading docks for over 20 years. On June 6th, a nest fell (presumably from the recent excessive heat). Five chicks were inside and, and sadly three did not survive the fall. Amazingly, two did. They were not too far from fledging age, having a good number of flight feathers already.

Horticulturist Melanie Doyle knew there was only one chance of getting them to survive: recreate a nest. She found a small plastic container, scooped most of the fallen nest material into it, then secured it to the cement beams (using a hammer drill - neighboring swallows probably did not like that!) with a wall anchor and screw. She noticed the container still moved a little, so she further secured it with duct-tape to the overhang. Melanie placed the two chicks inside and waited.

It took the adults about an hour to figure out what this new contraption was and if they could (or should!) alight on it, but they saw their chicks and did finally accept the "nest". They resumed feeding them normally and we are expected the two little ones to fledge in a week or so. It's good to know that swallows will accept an artifical nest and raise their young in it!

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