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Resident Accuses City of Destroying Active Barn Swallow Nests

The following is a letter written to Richfield Patch.

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Barn Swallows recently began building nests in the picnic shelter and a local resident believes the city is removing the nests illegally. The city denies any wrongdoing, saying a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsed procedure is used for removal.

The following is a Letter to the Editor Richfield Patch received earlier in the week:

Dear Editor,

For an unspecified reason, the City of Richfield is waging war against Barn Swallows at Veterans Memorial Park. Richfield has been destroying Barn Swallow nests in the Park’s Shelter beginning on May 16, 2012. When questioned about the City’s actions, City Manager, Steve Devich replied on May 17th, 2012 (see attached email):

  • The City does not need a permit if the nests do not have eggs or baby birds in them
  • It is legal to remove the nest if there are no baby birds or eggs laid in the nest
  • It is legal to continue to remove nests throughout the summer per the schedule and means (water truck) of removal I have described below, provided there are no eggs or baby birds in the nest.

Mr. Devich also stated that:

  • Until Monday of this week (May 14, 2012), the swallow nests have not been constructed under the shelter due to a device that was installed early April 2012.

This is blatantly untrue. Barn Swallows returned to the Park in early May and had completed nests in the Shelter by May 5th, 2012. I led a bird watching walk on May 5th, 2012 in which 7 people watched the Barn Swallows sitting on their nests. Many other people who enjoy Nature at Veterans Memorial Park also saw the Swallows nests more than a week earlier than when Mr. Devich claims. 

Mr. Devich also made the following statement:

  • In response to your email, the nests were inspected by City staff yesterday (5-16). It was found that there were no eggs/baby birds in the nest, which resulted in their immediate removal. The park’s staff operating the water truck today, May 17, was cleaning the mud residue from the underside of Veterans Park Shelter and the bird droppings from the picnic tables. They were NOT removing or destroying any nests.

How do we know this is a true statement? The only thing that is clear is that the City of Richfield doesn’t understand nesting Barn Swallows. 

This is apparent by Mr. Devich’s unfaltering faith in the electronic device, the BirdXPeller Pro, which emits calls of hawks and falcons from 4 speakers. This was installed in the Shelter and used since the middle of March, 2012. 

Not surprisingly, the system, which doesn’t claim to be effective for Barn Swallows, is ineffective against Barn Swallows. The City assumed the BirdXPeller Pro was working great in March and April of 2012, because there were no Swallows in the shelter. What they didn’t know was Barn Swallows migrate to Central and South America in the colder months and don’t return here until early May. Where they repelling them from the whole state?

It turns out that someone vandalized and shut off the BirdXPeller Pro on Monday May 14th, 2012. But, it wasn’t until Thursday, May 17, 2012 for the City to report this:

  • The BirdXPeller is an important tool for the City to prevent the nesting in this building and is being repaired immediately. A police report was filed today (May 17th, 2012) to investigate the vandalism of this unit, which we hope may result in charging someone with destruction of City property. With the use of the cameras that were installed in and on the Arts Center Building, we may be able to identify the person (s) that vandalized the unit.

It is also very disturbing that the City allowed the Barn Swallows to rebuild their nests for a whole week before they decided to scrape them off again on May 23, 2012. Maybe the City employees destroying the nests are not telling the truth to the Mr. Devich. The fact is that anyone who goes to the shelter right now will see the Barn Swallows once again building nests while the BirdXPeller Pro keeps screeching raptor calls. 

Barn Swallows are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Most States also have laws protecting active Barn Swallow nests. In Minnesota, it is legal to remove Barn Swallow nests that do not have eggs or young in them. 

But is the City of Richfield treating the Swallows in an ethical manner? Barn Swallows now only nest in human structures. They usually will lay their eggs within a day of the nest being completed. You do the math. Did nests built and occupied since May 5th, 2012 have eggs?

There are many other ethical means to deter Barn Swallow nesting. The City could put up netting preventing birds from entering the Shelter. They could also keep knocking down the nests daily until the Swallows give up. It really seems cruel that the birds will waste an entire breeding season by building nests every week to then have them ripped down. If the City is concerned about Swallow droppings then they could also put shelves under the nests to collect any waste. 

Veterans Memorial Park has become one of the top birding locations in the Twin Cities, yet we do not have one man made nest box for birds in the Park.  Why is that?  Probably because the City doesn’t have any land management plan for the Park.  Yet each year the City comes up with ways to develop the park like plans for a driving range, a dog run, a band shell, shopping etc. 

Sincerely,

Scott B. Meyer

Richfield MN

The emails between Devich and Meyer have been attached to this article as a PDF. In addition, Meyer provided a tracking sheet he has been filling out to track all birds at the park. It has also been attached as a PDF.

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David Haines May 31, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I don't know a lot about birds and their removal but I do enjoy to see the birds when I go to the park. I have seen them in the shelter and they have never bothered me. However, I can search the internet and according to the BirdXPeller Website on that product (the BirdXPeller Pro model) there are 3 versions and none of them list being effective against barn swallows. They also cost $270. Version 1 repels: pigeons, starlings, sparrows and gulls Version 2 repels: crows, blackbirds, grackles, cormorants and ravens Version WP repels: woodpeckers No Barn Swallows or Swallows of any type listed. http://www.bird-x.com/birdxpeller-pro-products-42.php?page_id=104

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