Nature Canada’s Save Our Swallows!

Since the launch of Nature Canada’s Save Our Swallows campaign in May 2018, thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Nature Canada has worked with various partner organizations in an effort to reverse the long-standing declines of swallow populations in Ontario. Swallows are a part of a group of birds called the aerial insectivores, which are birds that prey on insects while flying. According to State of Canada’s Birds 2019, aerial insectivores are the most at-risk group of birds in Canada, with populations declining by 59% since 1970. This, compounded with the fact that we have lost 3 billion North American birds in the last 50 years, including both rare and common birds, paints a picture that urgent conservation work is required to protect our birds. In Ontario, all six species of swallows are facing declines ranging from 65-95% of their respective populations. Nature Canada’s Save Our Swallows campaign aims to halt long-standing declines of Ontario’s swallow populations by mobilizing communities and constituencies to take action to help recover populations of these cherished birds. 

This past summer, Nature Canada’s staff and volunteers monitored post-breeding swallow roosts around the southern Great Lakes region of Ontario. Most of the six species of swallows found in Ontario gather in large roosts in the southern Great Lakes region of the province, after the conclusion of the breeding season and prior to undertaking their long-distance migration to the wintering areas in the South. Some species, such as Bank Swallows, tend to start roosting well in advance of other swallows, often before the end of their breeding season. These roosts are congregations of large numbers of swallows, ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of individual birds and can often be large enough to be detected by weather radar when they depart the roost sites in the early hours of the morning. Even though these roosts can contain a huge amount of swallows, they are still ephemeral and are mostly gone by the start of September. Although more research is required, it is clear that roost sites deserve protection as there is such a huge concentration of declining birds, including at-risk species such as Bank and Barn Swallow.

Roost monitoring is just one aspect of the Save Our Swallows campaign. Another key element of this campaign is to work with farmers and rural residents across southern Ontario to improve farmland habitats for swallows for when they return in the spring. This past summer, Nature Canada’s Save Our Swallow team collaborated with organic farmers to host demonstration farm events to highlight their individual stewardship efforts, as well as speak about the benefits of implementing Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) for swallows to the many community members that attended each event. 

Nature Canada is also distributing state of the art T-14 Purple Martin housing units to Purple Martin landlords across southern Ontario. These housing units can each house up to 14 breeding pairs of Purple Martin, the largest of the swallows in North America. The population of Purple Martin has declined by over 90% in Ontario alone and these housing units can really provide a much-needed boost to the provincial population. Nature Canada provided 18 housing units in the spring of 2019, with another 12 housing units being distributed in spring 2020 before the swallows return to Ontario.


Along with the various initiatives that we are undertaking to protect our swallows, we have also created a short online survey to learn more from farmers and rural landowners about these species on their properties so that we can try to engage those interested in recovery actions like implement beneficial practices around the farm. By completing the survey, you will be entered into a draw to win a modern T-14 Purple Martin housing unit. To participate in the survey, please visit


Nature Canada has developed resources to help guide you to become better stewards for Ontario’s swallows and grassland birds. To download these resources, please visit

  • Beneficial Management Practices – A resource that provides accurate stewardship guidelines to provide the best conditions for all six of Ontario’s swallows on your property during their breeding season. It also includes housing structure design plans for Barn Swallows, Purple Martins and Tree Swallows. 
  • Beneficial Plant List – A list of plants that are native to Ontario that can grow on any property with frequent occurrences of swallows. Creating a reserve on your property to grow these native plants can increase insect production to support swallows and other aerial insectivores. 
  • Countryside Guide to Helping Swallows, Bats, and Other Birds – An attractive poster detailing easy to implement, day-to-day stewardship actions for farmers and rural residents to make their property safer for at-risk bird and bat species. 
  • Managing Hay and Pasture to Benefit Grassland Birds: Describes the perils our grassland birds face and provides bird-friendly advice relating to hay management, cow-calf operations, farm landscapes and alternative grass crops. Includes information on funding programs available to farmers and rural landowners. 

For more information on the Save Our Swallow campaign, please visit  

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