Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Cliff Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

I posted Purple Martins in May with some images of nests and birds that I thought were Purple Martins but was confused because of the mud and stick nests. A few days later I saw a bird I identified as a Barn Swallow and posted Photos on a Sunday Morning.

The mystery is solved now. But the solution is very sad.

Tuesday this week (June 10, 2008) a man at a local lake became upset over some bird nests just like the two I have here. I am not sure why he was upset but I think it may have had something to do with his boat. He took a pole and destroyed every one of the 30 or so nests. The nests contained 186 baby birds. All but one died.

The angry man apparently called the marina demanding that someone clean up the mess from the destroyed nests and the dead birds. That's how it is that his identity is known although it has not been made public.

Both the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service began an investigation.

The birds are Mud Swallows, also known as Cliff Swallows.

They are migratory birds and protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. The man can be fined up to $500 per bird. That's $93,000. No charges have been filed. A lot of people are pretty upset.

Cliff Swallows are rather famous. These are the same birds known as the The Swallows of San Juan Capistrano! They spend the winter down in Argentina. Then they fly north about 6,000 miles to get here about mid March.

It is rather a big deal in San Juan every year. Visitors come from all over the world to watch the birds arrive. They usually arrive all together on about March 19th.

Now get this:

There is a legend that an innkeeper in San Juan became irate because of the mess the birds made and destroyed their muddy nests. So, with their nests destroyed, the birds found refuge inside the old mission building.

The city of San Juan has an ordinance against destroying their nests. Scout birds precede the main group.

Anyway I am about as certain as I can be that my birds are Cliff Swallows.


Annie said...

I hope that man is charged and fined.

I'm glad you were able to identify your mystery birds and nests, despite the way it came about.

flintysooner said...

You were really close with the Barn Swallows.