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County of Wellington to create habitat for threatened barn swallows at closed landfill sites

The solid waste services department is in discussions about creating new nesting structures for the birds

An at-risk songbird could soon find new places to roost in closed landfills sites across Wellington County. 

Wellington County's manager of solid waste services, Das Soligo laid out plans to support barn swallows at a county committee meeting on Thursday.

The bird's population in Ontario has plummeted in the last five decades, down 80 per cent from pre-1970 levels, causing the species to be classified as threatened, Soligo explained. While the reasons for the rapid decline are unclear, scientists believe there are several contributing factors including habitat loss — primarily attributed to the demolition of older barns — and insecticide use. 

Barn swallows prefer older barns due to the ease of access and the rough surface of the wood, Soligo said. The birds find it more challenging to build nests in newer barns, with their metal siding and smooth surfaces. 

In 2014 the provincial government released a recovery strategy for barn swallows and the County of Wellington could soon be part of those efforts. 

Soligo explained during the past summer a resident "who is very passionate about barn swallows" spotted one of their distinctive nests at a county hazardous waste depot.

The resident pointed Soligo to some resources about the bird's plight and opportunities to support them.

"Ultimately with the loss of their habitat a lot of people are starting to build small wooden structures that they can nest in safely," Soligo told the meeting. 

Helping barn swallows fits with county's existing naturalization efforts at its 16 closed landfill sites, Soligo explained. Provincial funding may also be available. 

"In partnership with this local resident we are discussing what some supports could look like," Soligo said. "Whether there's small shelves that could be added to certain buildings that would allow them to nest, or in some cases whether small structures could be purchased or built that would give them further nesting opportunities."

Soligo's report was for information only, no decision from the committee was required. However, several committee members were expressed that they were pleased to hear about the initiative. 

Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson asked if it would be necessary to somehow direct barn swallows to the sites or if they would "automatically find" them.

"What we're hoping is if you build it, they will come," replied Soligo. 


Alison Sandstrom

About the Author: Alison Sandstrom

Alison Sandstrom covers civic issues in Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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