New project to help species at risk

We all love birds, but many bird populations are declining at an alarming rate due to a number of threats including habitat destruction, recreational disturbance and climate change. A new study published in September 2019, estimates that 2.9 billion birds of various species have disappeared in Canada and the United States since 1970 – a population decrease of 29 per cent. Even the more common bird species such as swallows, are facing population declines. Swallows are beneficial insectivores and iconic species that many Columbia Valley residents appreciate. Swallows have intrinsic value and play an important role in pest management – one individual eats up to 850 insects (e.g. mosquitoes) each day!

Recently, both the barn swallow and bank swallow were listed as Threatened species under the Canada’s Species at Risk Act. There is a lack of information on the status of swallows in the Columbia Valley, including where important habitats (e.g. nesting and roosting locations) are located, but it is well-known that both bank and barn swallows’ do breed and feed in the Columbia Valley. There is a need to undertake inventory work to determine nesting locations so that hands-on stewardship activities, such as habitat enhancement (i.e. artificial nesting structures), can be best directed in 2021 to conserve swallows and their habitats.

The Columbia Valley Swallow Project (CVSP) will begin this year, and it intends to be a two-year project. The main purpose of year one will be to determine the location of nest sites, with an opportunity for volunteers to assist with monitoring. Nest locations and nest success will be used to inform the management of nesting sites in the Columbia Valley (Canal Flats to Donald). Data will also contribute to provincial and federal recovery planning and implementation processes. In year two, the emphasis of the CVSP will be on-the-ground stewardship and conservation activities such as erecting artificial nesting structures on private land. This swallow project will also be beneficial in terms of providing information to the public regarding the Migratory Birds Convention Act, including obligations under this Act. This will assist private landowners with empowering education regarding their duties to protect nests.

The CVSP is project of Wildsight Golden, developed and managed by contractor Goldeneye Ecological Services with financial support from Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, RDEK’s Columbia Valley Local Conservation Program, Wildsight Invermere and Wildsight Regional.

If you’d like to participate in monitoring activities, know of any bank or barn swallow nest sites (including on your own private property), or want more information, please contact the program biologist Rachel Darvill at

Photo by Rachel Darvill