How to Get Rid of Barn Swallows

Barn swallows are pretty little birds with blue feathers and a forked tail.

They can entertain you for hours as they catch mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs in midair. You never have to worry about attracting barn swallows because they come back every year.

And that’s the problem.

Barn swallows like to roost and nest together. If your property is a good home for barn swallows, you can have dozens or hundreds of barn swallows nesting together.

There was a roost in Nigeria that had 1.5 million of these birds. There are about 120 million barn swallows worldwide.

Barn swallows make a lot of noise — mostly at night. They make their nests out of the mud. The mud can melt when it gets wet.

Having a hundred or a thousand or more barn swallows on or near your property results in tons of bird droppings.

These bird droppings can clog gutters. They can get sucked into vents and cause fire hazards. They can form bacteria- and fungus-laden dust that can make you sick.

You and your pets can get Salmonella from swallow droppings.

Everything about barn swallows isn’t bad, but chances are you want them to live somewhere else. In this article, we will tell you 17 ways to get rid of barn swallows.

Know where to look

Barn swallows build their nests of mud in — you guessed it — barns.

They also will take advantage of openings into crawl spaces and attics. They build nests under eaves and awnings.

Thousands of barn swallows may gather under bridges. Sometimes they will build their mud nests on the sides of the building.

Most people who have issues with barn swallows don’t have barns. The birds that are covering your roof with their droppings may roost and nest somewhere else.

You may have to take a little field trip to find the source of your problem. Then you may have to deal with the property owner.

Put up a Swallow Shield

Swallow shields stop swallows from building their mud nests.

They consist of hanging plastic monofilaments you place in front of potential nesting sites. Nesting sites include doors, access ports, gables, eaves, and ledges.

The monofilaments won’t hurt barn swallows. They just rub against their wings when they approach their nesting site. They cause them to look for a more convenient site.

It’s easy to put up a swallow shield. Just peel off the paper on the back of the shield to expose the adhesive beneath it, and apply the shield to the surface you want to protect. (Swallow shields are intended to protect areas below them, not above.)

The translucent plastic is not noticeable and won’t diminish your home’s curb appeal. Or at least it won’t detract from curb appeal as much as the barn swallow droppings.

Using the adhesive makes the installation of the swallow shield permanent. You can also mount it with two fasteners through pre-drilled holes for temporary installation.

It’s important to know that this method only works if you cover all your nesting sites. Otherwise, you are just moving barn swallows from one part of your property to another.

Put out bird spikes

Bird spikes are long pieces of plastic that keep birds from perching or building nests. They crowd birds out of places to spend the night or to raise their young.

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Bird spikes don’t hurt birds. They just force birds to land somewhere else.

Bird spikes come in strips with an adhesive backing. Just peel away the paper backing to expose the adhesive, and lay down the strip of bird spikes on the flat surface you want to protect.

Barn swallows sometimes build their nests on the sides of walls, vertically, but you shouldn’t try to stop this with bird spikes.

The swallows will just use the spikes as a support for their nests. Only install bird spikes on flat, horizontal surfaces.

Make sure that the spikes are close enough together that a barn swallow can’t perch between them. Otherwise, you are just providing the barn swallow with a protected perch.

Wash away mud nests before they are completed

A good way to keep barn swallows for nesting is to wash their mud nests away.

If you use your garden hose or power sprayer to get rid of nests often enough, the birds will fly away.

It’s important to do this before the nests are built. In all 10 Canadian provinces and all 50 US states, it’s illegal to interfere with bird nests once they contain eggs.

Handling a nest or eggs will require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Some states even make touching a completed bird nest a crime.

Contact your local wildlife department to make sure removing nests is legal.

That way you’ll be in the clear washing away nests anytime barn swallows aren’t breeding, from September to April.

Once it’s breeding season, you have to leave the nests alone until the swallows fly away for the winter.

Wash away old nests when barn swallows aren’t around

Also, if your local laws permit, it’s helpful to wash away old nests when barn swallows have left for the winter.

Just be sure you aren’t violating any laws when you do.

Protect ledges with bird slopes

Bird slopes are 4-foot or 1-meter sloped pieces of wood resting on “legs” that fit on ledges and eaves.

They deprive barn swallows of a flat surface for building their nests.

Bird slopes are easy to install, easy to remove, and also keep other birds from nesting.

Try a sonic bird repeller

Sonic swallow control systems play recordings of real sounds swallows make when they are being pursued by predators.

Bird-X Balcony Gard Ultrasonic Bird Repeller

Barn swallows hear these high-frequency distress calls and fly away. Sonic bird repellers protect eaves, gables, and overhangs, as well as yards and parks.

They protect equipment stored outdoors from corrosive swallow droppings. They can help outdoor food venues pass health department inspections.

Sonic bird repellers are better at making barn swallows slow down and look for predators than they are as the only deterrent you use.

They are best combined with other barn swallow deterrents. They are better for discouraging nesting than for keeping swallows away before and after mating season.

Use a blazer laser bird repeller

The Bird Blazer is a device that generates laser light at random intervals. It sends out laser beams in colors barn swallows don’t like to discourage them from nesting.

When swallows see random lights from an unknown source, they will fly away.

All you have to do is to install the laser so it points in the direction you expect birds to fly in. Plug it in, and you’re done.

Lasers are more effective if they only flash every 5 to 15 minutes, so they won’t run up your electricity bill.

Lasers are best suited to eaves, gables, and overhangs. You will want to make sure it is pointed at the same level that you want to protect.

Blazer lasers aren’t strong enough to cause damage to human eyes or bird eyes. But they could be a distraction to pilots.

Put up a fake owl

Owls eat barn swallows. Barn swallows are scared by owls.

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Putting up an owl “scarecrow” can make barn swallows avoid your property. That is, if they aren’t already nesting — so you will need to put up your fake owl in early spring.

It is important to understand that barn swallows aren’t afraid of pictures of owls.They aren’t afraid of owl decals or owl statues. They are afraid of owls.

Your fake owl will need to look as realistic as possible. It will need to be the right size, 18 to 25 inches (45 to 63 cm) long. It will need to have the right color feathers, brown. It will need talons.

It helps if your fake owl is animatronic, if it can move like an owl, turning its head. And you should move your fake owl around every few days so barn swallows don’t learn to avoid it.

Most models of animatronic owls have motion sensors that can detect barn swallows up to 10 feet (3 meters) away. Their eyes will flash red. They will make owl sounds.

Animatronic owls are usually solar-powered, so you don’t need to worry about changing batteries

Barn swallows will eventually realize your fake owl is, well, fake. But you may have discouraged them long enough they didn’t build nests.

Choose where you want barn swallows to nest

If you don’t mind having barn swallows around to eat insects, but you don’t want them building nests on your house, you can put up decoy nests. Decoy nests are fake nests made of concrete and fastened to plywood.

Just install the plywood plank where you want the swallows to stay. Choose a nesting site that won’t be an eyesore or reduce your home’s curb appeal.

Barn swallows are more likely to use your nests if you leave soft hay, cotton, or dry leaves nearby they can use as nesting materials. Be sure to nail the plywood where you want the nests so the board doesn’t blow away.

Put out liquid bird repellent

It’s illegal to put out poisons to kill barn swallows. However, you can put out a chemical repellent that makes them sneeze and fly away.

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One of the most popular liquid chemical bird repellents is methyl anthranilate. A lot of people will tell you it’s harmless to people, but that’s not entirely true.

Wear gloves when you apply methyl anthranilate. You want to make sure you wash your hands after you use them. If you swallow it, it can make you nauseous.

Many people will tell you that methyl anthranilate smells like Concord grapes. That part is true. But when birds smell this chemical they get temporary throbbing headaches.

They won’t be able to move their beaks to eat for an hour or two.

Put out this chemical under gables, on eaves, and on ledges out of the sun. Sunlight breaks it down. Apply with a spray bottle or with a brush for a heavier cover.

Keep it away from pets and children.

Methyl anthranilate won’t poison you. It’s even approved for protecting strawberries from birds.

Just use your bird repellents on birds, not to keep any other kind of animals away.

Move food sources away from the property you want to protect

Barn swallows eat flying insects. They chow down on bees, butterflies, dragonflies, flies, moths, wasps, and more.

If you get rid of the insects on which swallows feed, you can get rid of swallows. But do you really want to sacrifice your butterfly garden to get rid of barn swallows?

Do you want to put out poisons to get rid of flying insects just to spite the birds?

We don’t recommend killing the bugs that feed the birds. But we do recommend moving flying insects away from your house so swallows move with them.

This can mean moving your butterfly plants to your back fence. You may want to make sure any water features have moving water so mosquitoes won’t grow on them.

You will want to move your bird bath to a location away from your home where you can still enjoy watching the birds.

Install bird nets

Bird nets are plastic mesh usually used to protect plants.

They can also be put up in front of ledges, gables, eaves, and entrances to barns and outbuildings where barn swallows might build their nests.

Bird nets don’t kill birds. When nets are made with a 5/8 inch (15 mm) mesh, birds won’t get their heads caught, but they won’t be able to fly through.

Because barn swallows are picky about where they build their nests, you won’t have to put up a lot of bird netting.

Just put at least six inches in front of window sills, ledges, eaves, and gables.

Use polyethylene nets that won’t rust and won’t injure birds that fly into them.

Scare swallows with reflectors

Barn swallows that aren’t familiar with your property will fly away when they see sudden flashes of bright light.

You scare them away with reflectors that scare birds away on sunny days.

A low-budget approach to getting rid of barn swallows is to hang up old compact disks or aluminum foil in your yard.

Use strings that let them ride the breeze. You can also put up spirals of reflective tape.

A higher-budget but more aesthetic approach is to put up a Bird B Gone RFLT-1 Reflect-a-Bird Deterrent or a set of spiral bird scare rods.

Place them about 20 feet (6 meters) away from the areas you want to protect, These ready-to-go reflectors catch the wind to move around as they reflect the sun.

Fly a kite

Kites that look like predator birds are an excellent deterrent to barn swallows.

Barn swallows will see something large enough to be a predator moving with the wind and stay away. But not just any bird kite will do.

Bird deterrent kits have the same colors as the feathers of owls, hawks, or other raptors. They have realistic-looking claws. They have pointed beaks like predators.

The fake birds in these kites have red or yellow eyes that will flash in the sunlight. And they even have a reflective surface, which is another swallow-deterrent feature.

Make sure you buy a durable kite designed for repeated use. Anchor it securely and fly it on windy days.

Fly a drone

You’ll have to be on hand to operate your drone, but drones can also keep the barn swallows away.

When all else fails, get professional help

When nothing you have done keeps barn swallows away, it’s time to seek help from a wildlife professional.

Your local wildlife control office is a great place to start.

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