Keep the barn door open: What Islanders are doing to give barn swallows a boost – Prince Edward Island

Peter Townshend knows it’s spring when the barn swallows show up on his farm in Rollo Bay, P.E.I.

“When they come back, it’s like the family has come back to open the cottage for the summer,” said Townshend, who spotted the first barn swallows on May 1 this year, a bit earlier than usual.

Townshend has five buildings on his farm where the barn swallows nest.

“One in particular an old garage which is attached to the house that I pay the most attention to,” said Townshend.

“They’re in and they’re out and they’re squawking, a big, big, big fuss, you can’t miss the fact that they’re back.”

The young barn swallows learn to fly quickly and Peter Townshend says it’s hard to tell them apart from the adults after a few weeks. (Getty Images/Minden Pictures RM)

‘Good company’

“We’ve always had barn swallows around here, as long as I can remember, even when we were kids,” said Townshend. 

“They’re good company, I watch when they come back in the spring and I watch when they leave, just keep an eye on them.”

The barn swallow population seems to be rebounding on P.E.I. (Graham Sorenson)

In some parts of North America, the barn swallow population has been in decline, in part because people are tearing down old barns, or the structures are simply collapsing from neglect.

Townshend agrees the number of barn swallows did take a dip, but he’s been hearing more people seeing them over the last couple of years.

Leave the doors open

Starting in April, Townshend leaves the barn doors open for the barn swallows to find their way home. Some birds go as far as South America for the winter.

“Somehow or another they find their way back to our garage, it isn’t a coincidence that we have barn swallows in our garage every year, it’s because the same ones are coming back,” said Townshend.

Peter Townshend says there are no mosquito problems on the farm, thanks to the barn swallows. (Submitted by Peter Townshend)

Keeping the barn doors open attracts the birds, but…

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