When it comes to different songbirds, one of the many things that scientists have noticed about them is that they tend to build different nests per clutch in the sense that they tend to abandon their other nests to build a new one if they breed again. Now, since swallows are also songbirds, does it follow that they also abandon their nests to build a new one for the new clutch?
Studies have shown that 44% of swallow pairs tend to actually occupy the same nest for their subsequent brood. That means that if two swallows pair with one another again in the next breeding season, it is likely that they will once again occupy the same nest where they had their previous clutch.
Now, what you need to know is that this is actually remarkable among songbirds because of how swallows tend to spend a long time away from their nests whenever they go on migration during the winter. This goes to show that swallows, unlike other songbirds, actually are faithful to their nests to a certain degree.
Do swallows abandon their nests?
One of the things that are usually observed when it comes to different songbirds is that they tend to actually build new nests whenever they breed again. That means that it is highly unlikely that these birds will come back to the same nests to lay a new clutch the second time that they breed. Of course, that is if they indeed survive to breed again.
However, one of the things that were noticed about swallows is that they tend to be different from other songbirds in this regard. While swallows are indeed songbirds, they may display different nesting behaviors compared to their other songbird counterparts. And we are talking about how they may or may not abandon their nests. So, do swallows abandon their nests just like other songbirds?
That is both a yes and a no because swallows have been shown to actually do both. What that means is that swallows can actually abandon their old nests to build a new one or may come back to the old nest to once again lay a new clutch there. About 44% of swallows that were observed actually came back to their old nests instead of abandoning them.
Now, this is actually remarkable because of how swallows spend a lot of time away from their old nests whenever they go and travel far away whenever it’s time to migrate during the winter. Imagine the swallow spending a long time in a place that is far away from the nest only to remember where it is when it returns. This is something you don’t really see in many songbirds.
Of course, this can be due to how it takes a lot of effort for swallows to build a nest. It has been shown that swallows need to take about 1,300 trips back and forth to secure the materials they need to build a nest. That is a lot of work for a nest.
Imagine simply abandoning that nest after you did a lot of work to build it. As animals are wired to be able to function in the most efficient way possible, it would be very inefficient for a swallow to abandon a nest it spent so much time and effort to build. Therefore, there is a high chance for the bird to return to the nest right after the migration so that it could once again lay a fresh new clutch in that nest.
You also have to look at the fact that swallows tend to travel about 10,000 kilometers to and from Africa during migration. During the time that it travels back to its nest from migration, it needs the energy it stored up to fly back to the nest and to form the eggs it will now lay once it returns to its nest. In that regard, it probably no longer has the energy reserves left to build an entirely new nest. This explains why swallows don’t abandon their nests and would rather return to them the next time they lay a new clutch of eggs.
So, if the swallow actually made a pretty good and durable nest, you can expect the bird to use it for the next 10 to 15 years. This is how efficient nature works as swallows know for a fact that it would be a waste of time and energy to build a new one when they could just use the old nest that can last for a decade.
Do other birds take over the nest while the swallow is away?
Now that we said that swallows tend to come back to their nests after spending time away from them due to migration, what happens to the nest while the bird is away. Do other birds take over the nest while the swallow is in Africa?
Yes, other birds do actually take over the nest regardless of whether the swallow is in it or not. Swallows can be quite aggressive towards other birds that will try to come near their nests. However, no matter how aggressive they may be, a swallow will almost always end up losing to a bigger and more aggressive bird, or a predator, and that is why other birds tend to be some of the biggest enemies that swallow faces in the wild.
Sparrows are known to destroy a swallow’s eggs and even its chicks when they take over a nest. While it is not unusual for the swallows to make a new nest when they are evicted, it is more likely that they will separate from one another to find new partners.
Do pairs use the same nest for a subsequent clutch?
As mentioned, swallow pairs are known to actually pair again for the next breeding season and would rather return to their old nest where they reared their previous chicks to lay a new clutch of eggs and raise a new brood. That’s because re-using the same nest can save the birds up to 12 days since they will no longer have to build a new nest.
However, swallows are smart enough to know when it is time to start fresh elsewhere. This usually happens when the old nest is already in a bad shape and is beyond repair or when there is a parasitic infection. In such cases, the most likely outcome is that the pair will try to build a new nest somewhere and will abandon their old nest.
But what if the swallows separated and found new pairs? Whose nest do they use now that they have new partners?
It really isn’t uncommon for swallows to find new pairs because there is always a chance for one of the birds to die during migration. That said, when a new pairing happens, the male usually returns to his old nest to use it because they are more likely to return first compared to females. Meanwhile, females are more likely to use a new nest.