The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission has begun its annual nesting box program for tree swallows this week, and the beautiful iridescent-blue birds are grabbing up the boxes as soon as they are placed along the edge of wetlands.
Tree swallows are a popular bird for many people, not just for their iridescent beauty and graceful speed, but also because they love to eat insects. It has been estimated that a family of tree swallows can eat hundreds upon hundreds of midges, mosquitoes and other insects in a day.
With the help of local scout troops, families and other groups, the Meadowlands Commission has erected some 250 nesting boxes in marshes throughout the 30.4-square-mile district.
Last year, Meadowlands Commission naturalists used GPS devices to help keep track of tree-swallow activity in all of the nesting boxes.
COMING SOON: Tree Swallow Video
Click here to read Bergen Record Environmental Writer Jim O'Neill's nifty story today about the Tree Swallow Project.
"Continue reading..." for more info and pics.
The naturalists found that more than 60 percent were occupied by nesting pairs, with 610 eggs laid and 485 nestlings successfully fledged.
The birds have begun arriving in the district in large numbers in the past week after wintering in Florida and points south. They will start their families next month, then migrate south again in midsummer. Each nesting pair has a clutch of two to eight eggs.
The nest-box program began nearly 20 years ago when a Meadowlands Commission naturalist put up a few nesting boxes for the six-inch-long birds, which have slowly been losing places to nest as the region gets built-out.
The program has grown into a major grassroots effort. For the past six years, the Meadowlands Commission has conducted workshops that have enabled families and groups to build the nesting houses from kits – and then donate them to the tree swallows.